The Latest: Florida State Offices Closed as Storm Nears

MIAMI (AP) — The Latest on Tropical Storm Hermine, which forecasters say could make landfall as a hurricane in Florida: (all times local):

10 a.m.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is ordering state government offices in 51 counties to close.

Scott ordered the closing of offices at noon Thursday due to the looming threat of Tropical Storm Hermine, which is expected to swell into a hurricane before slamming into the state’s Panhandle.

The order included the state capital Tallahassee and home to tens of thousands of state workers. The city, which is located roughly 35 miles from the coast, has not had a direct hit by hurricane in 30 years.

Residents were out in force Thursday morning to prepare for the storm and stores were already running low on bottled water and flashlights. City crews were struggling to keep up with demand for sand with sandbags.

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9:55 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center forecasts Tropical Storm Hermine may reach hurricane strength as it comes ashore likely as a Category 1 storm.

The latest forecast Thursday morning had Hermine’s top sustained winds at about 60 mph as it approached Florida’s upper Gulf coast. If it reaches hurricane strength, Category 1 wind speeds are between 74 mph and 95 mph, forecasters say.

The hurricane center also predicts storm surge along the coast to vary between one and three feet above ground level.

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9:35 a.m.

As Tropical Storm Hermine aims toward Florida’s Gulf Coast, residents in the Big Bend area are getting ready for possible storm surge and heavy rain.

In Cedar Key, west of Gainesville, Jordan Keeton says workers started placing sandbags on Wednesday to protect his 83 West restaurant from possible flooding. He says he’s mostly worried about the new equipment he’s recently purchased for the waterfront restaurant.

Hurricane forecasters in Miami say the storm is expected to make landfall south of Tallahassee late Thursday or early Friday.

Flooding is expected across a wide swath of the Big Bend area, which has a mostly marshy coastline.

Keeton says he thinks his building is “pretty safe and pretty strong.”

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8:20 a.m.

Friday night lights will be Thursday night lights in many areas of South Carolina this week.

News outlets report high school football games in many areas will be played on Thursday night because Tropical Storm Hermine is expected to bring heavy rains to the state on Friday.

In Charleston County, emergency officials have a message for residents: Stay home on Friday. The storm is expected to flood streets in the Charleston area which can see high tide flooding even on sunny days.

The Coast Guard has issued an advisory that all large oceangoing vessels need to leave the Port of Charleston. And no inbound vessels are being allowed to call until the storm passes.

The worst conditions from Hermine in South Carolina are expected to be during the day on Friday.

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8:15 a.m.

The National Weather Service in Wilmington, North Carolina, is warning residents to be prepared for heavy rains, possible flooding and perhaps even tornadoes as Tropical Storm Hermine heads toward the state from the Gulf of Mexico.

The storm is expected to make landfall in Florida early Friday and by early Saturday the center of circulation should be near the Wilmington area.

A tropical storm watch has been posted for a number of counties in southeastern North Carolina and a flash flood watch is in effect for Friday.

Forecasters are warning residents to be prepared for several hours of heavy rains and strong winds of more than 40 mph on Friday.

A wide swath of eastern North Carolina could receive between 6 inches and 10 inches of rain during the next three days.

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8 a.m.:

Residents in some low-lying communities of Florida are being asked to evacuate as Tropical Storm Hermine takes aim at the state.

The Tallahassee Democrat (http://on.tdo.com/2c2jFxe) reports emergency management officials in Franklin County have issued a mandatory evacuation notice for people living on St. George Island, Dog Island, Alligator Point and Bald Point. Residents in other low-lying areas prone to flooding area also being asked to evacuate.

A hurricane warning is in effect for Florida’s Big Bend from the Suwannee River to Mexico Beach. On the East Coast, a tropical storm warning has been issued for an area that extends from Marineland, Florida, northward to the South Santee River in South Carolina.

Hermine’s maximum sustained winds Thursday morning are near 60 mph (95 kph). Some strengthening is forecast and the U.S. National Hurricane Center says Hermine is expected to be a hurricane when it makes landfall in Florida on Thursday night or early Friday.

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7:40 a.m.

Florida’s Gulf coast is bracing Thursday for a hit from Tropical Storm Hermine, which forecasters say could make landfall as a hurricane.

A hurricane warning is in effect for Florida’s Big Bend from the Suwannee River to Mexico Beach. On the East Coast, a tropical storm warning has been issued for an area that extends from Marineland, Florida, northward to the South Santee River in South Carolina.

Hermine’s maximum sustained winds Thursday morning are near 60 mph (95 kph). Some strengthening is forecast and the U.S. National Hurricane Center says Hermine is expected to be a hurricane when it makes landfall in Florida on Thursday night or early Friday.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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