ORLANDO, Fla. - Hermine strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane Thursday afternoon, prompting severe weather alerts across Central Florida.
A tornado watch is in effect for Marion, Putnam and Sumter counties until 8 a.m. Friday. Tornado warnings were issued Thursday for Volusia, Orange, Lake and portions of Seminole and Sumter counties.
[VIDEO: News 6 covers severe weather across Central Florida | SCROLL BELOW: School closures ]
A tree fell on a house in Mascotte in Lake County, but no one was hurt. There were no immediate reports of serious damage in Central Florida.
Hermine was 85 miles south of Apalachicola and 120 miles west-southwest of Cedar Key at 5 p.m., moving north-northeast at 14 mph. Hermine is now the fourth hurricane of 2016. Officials said Hermine will make landfall around 2 a.m. Friday, but severe weather is already hitting Florida.
The last hurricane to make landfall in Florida was Hurricane Wilma in October 2005.
Tropical storm warnings have been extended to Flagler and Marion counties as Hermine continues to the north Florida Gulf Coast. Hermine has maximum winds of 80 mph and the potential for life-threatening storm surges and flooding rains.
The impacts in Central Florida from Hermine will be rain, strong winds and the possibility of tornadoes.
The storm strengthened from a tropical depression just before 2 p.m. Wednesday. Gov. Rick Scott closed all state offices in 51 counties on Thursday at noon as a result of Hermine.
Scott described the storm as a "life-threatening event," and said that residents should be prepared, listen to local officials and follow your disaster plan.
"This storm has the potential to be life-threatening if residents and visitors don't follow proper precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones," Scott said in a release. "This storm will impact the majority of our state. Right now, we are concerned about storm surge in our coastal communities, wind, rain and tornadoes. We can expect storm surges beginning this afternoon along the Nature Coast and the Big Bend, wind speeds up to 75 mph, rainfall of up to 15 inches in some areas and tornados impacting Central and North Florida."
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Scott on Wednesday declared a state of emergency for 42 counties, including most of Central Florida, as the tropical storm sat stationary in the Gulf of Mexico. Every Central Florida county except Osceola is included in the state of emergency list.
"We are expecting plenty of tropical downpours in Central Florida over the next couple of days," News 6 meteorologist Candace Campos said.
School closure information
- Marion County Public Schools said on Thursday it has canceled all MCPS classes and events for Friday.
- Flagler County Schools has closed schools and offices and canceled all after-school activities for Friday.
- Brevard County Public Schools has canceled outdoor activities for Thursday.
- Sumter County School District said there are no plans to cancel school on Friday because the storm appears to be moving away.
- Seminole County Public Schools said as of Thursday afternoon, schools will remain open on Friday.
- Orange County Public Schools canceled all away games Thursday night. Schools will be open on a normal schedule Friday with extended day operating normally both before and after school.
- Volusia County Schools said all afterschool and evening events were canceled Thursday. All Volusia County schools will be closed Friday. "he decision to close schools is based on safety concerns for students and staff. We hope everyone has a happy and safe Labor Day holiday," officials said."
- Osceola County Public Schools said all school and district operations are normal on Thursday until notified otherwise.
- Lake County Schools said all after school and athletic activities have been canceled Thursday. Friday schools will be open with a normal schedule.
Central Florida forecast
"Locally, southwesterly wind will continue to stream in tropical moisture over the area through Friday," Campos said. "Under this weather pattern, rain chances will remain between 70-80 percent during the afternoon."
Aside from heavy downpours and occasional lightning, gusty winds in some squalls could reach 35-40 mph, she said.
Most of the tropical moisture will exit the area by Friday evening.
"We can expect to gradually get back to our normal weather setup just in time for the Labor Day weekend," Campos said.
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