Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency as Tropical Storm Colin bears down on the state’s west coast where it will strike later Monday before crossing into the Atlantic to menace Georgia and South Carolina.
As much as six inches (15 centimeters) of rain has already fallen across northern Florida and “flash flooding is expected to begin shortly,” according to the National Weather Service in Tallahassee. Some areas could get as much as 8 inches and evacuations are possible. Flood and flash flood warnings extend to North Carolina
The storm is forecast to strike near Florida’s Big Bend region, the marshy coast that extends from Indian Pass to Englewood, later Monday, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said in an advisory at 1 p.m. New York time. Gulf of Mexico oil and natural gas platforms off the coasts of Louisiana and Texas are out of the storm’s path. Orange juice futures jumped to the highest in more than two years as Colin is expected to reduce the Florida crop.
“Due to the displacement of the strong winds and heavy rainfall from the center of Colin, it is important to not focus on the exact forecast track,” Daniel Brown, a senior hurricane specialist at the hurricane center in Miami, wrote in the 11 a.m. forecast. “Heavy rainfall, strong winds, and coastal flooding will begin affecting portions of the Florida Peninsula this afternoon well in advance of the center’s nearing the coast.”
Areas along Florida’s west coast are already getting heavy rain and high winds, said Brian Wimer, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.
Scott declared a state of emergency across the central and northern part of the state. Franklin County told residents in low lying areas and in mobile homes they should leave before the storm arrives.
Tropical storm warnings were also issued on the east coast from South Santee River, South Carolina to Sebastian Inlet, Florida. Colin, with top winds of 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour, was 245 miles west of Tampa, the hurricane center said.
Colin is the third named storm of 2016 and the second in about a week, heralding an early start to the Atlantic hurricane season, which began on June 1. Hurricane Alex, the first storm of the year, formed in the mid-Atlantic in January. A storm gets a name when its winds reach tropical-storm strength of 39 mph.
By the time Colin reaches the Atlantic Tuesday, its winds could peak at 60 mph as it is nudged away from the U.S. East Coat by a low pressure system over the eastern part of the country.
While Colin has strengthened some since it first developed Sunday, it is disorganized and facing wind shear, which will probably keep it from getting any stronger, Brown wrote.
“It certainly isn’t looking like a very impressive storm,” Wimer said.
A well-defined tropical system has its highest winds near the core, which isn’t the case with Colin. It could be further damaged after crossing over land sometime between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., Wimer said.
The hurricane center, which forecasts Colin to be off the South Carolina coast early Tuesday, will issue advisories even if the storm weakens.
“The main thing is, whether it is a tropical storm or not, it is going to bring a lot of rain and flooding,” Wimer said. “That seems to be the big concern today and tomorrow.”
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