Gov. Scott declares emergency in 42 counties as Gulf storm expected to make landfall Thursday
Almost two-thirds of Florida's counties are now under a state of emergency because of a tropical depression that's intensifying in the Gulf of Mexico and expected to make landfall Thursday afternoon as either a tropical storm or a Category 1 hurricane.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott issued the state of emergency for 42 counties on Wednesday morning, while he attended a morning briefing at the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. Metro areas covered by the emergency declaration include Tallahassee, Tampa Bay, Orlando, Gainesville, Jacksonville and the Space Coast. South Florida is "in the clear," one state official said.
(See Scott's emergency declaration here for the full list of affected counties.)
Tropical Depression 9 is still moving slowly in the Gulf at about 2 miles per hour but it's starting to take shape. The storm is expected to pick up steam and veer northeast toward Florida's Big Bend over the next 24-36 hours, said Bryan Koon, director of Florida's Division of Emergency Management.
FL Emergency Management Dir. Bryan Koon says Tropical Depression 9 "will become tropical storm today," still could become Cat1 hurricane.— Kristen M. Clark (@ByKristenMClark) August 31, 2016
Coastal areas from Walton and Bay counties to the Anclote River are under a tropical storm warning, and much of that same area is under a hurricane watch.
State officials expect landfall in Florida's Big Bend by late afternoon or evening Thursday, with the worst of the impacts overnight on Thursday.
Affected areas could see 5-10 inches of rain, with up to 15 inches in some areas. Three- to six-foot storm surges along the coast are expected from Indian Pass to Bonita Beach; they could be as high as 7-9 feet, depending on the intensity of the storm, officials said.
Any school closures necessary because of the storm are expected to be announced later today.
Speaking with reporters after the morning briefing, Scott urged preparation and vigilance.
"You've got to take care of yourself and be prepared," Scott said.
He advised Floridians to make sure they have battery-powered radios so they can monitor the weather and be alert of storm or tornado warnings. He also cautioned residents against driving in flooded waters and approaching downed power lines.