Hermine moves north after pounding Florida

  • 04/09/2016
A huge pine tree is shown after falling through a home from the wind and rain damage in Tallahassee, Florida (Reuters)
A huge pine tree is shown after falling through a home from the wind and rain damage in Tallahassee, Florida (Reuters)

The US East Coast faces a potential mix of dangerously high winds and heavy rains over the long holiday weekend as Tropical Storm Hermine ploughed up the Atlantic Coast on Saturday, leaving a path of destruction in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

Tropical storm and flooding watches and warnings were in effect along the Atlantic seaboard from South Carolina north to Rhode Island as the potentially life-threatening storm moved along a stretch inhabited by tens of millions of Americans.

The storm was projected to creep north along the Carolina coast, then gather strength after moving offshore into the Atlantic on Saturday morning, possibly reaching near-hurricane intensity by late Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said.

The threat of severe weather caused officials in Atlantic City to cancel concerts over the weekend and beaches to close in several coastal communities.

Labour Day weekend plans for thousands of vacationers who were headed to popular beach spots along the Atlantic seaboard were dampened after the storm battered Florida's $89 billion tourism industry.

Hermine, the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida in 11 years, swept ashore early on Friday near the Gulf shore town of St Marks, 30km south of the capital of Tallahassee, packing winds of 130km/h and churning up a devastating storm surge in coastal areas.

As of 2am EDT, the fourth named storm of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season was about 185km west of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, where 95km/h winds were reported, the hurricane centre said.

Early Saturday morning, crews in Wilmington, North Carolina rescued several people who were sitting on top of their vehicle after a flood engulfed their street, photos from local media showed. At least one tornado was reported touching down in North Carolina on Saturday, causing at least one injury, local media reported.

A total of about 150,000 households were without power in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, utility companies reported on Saturday.

Overnight, crews in Pasco County, Florida, rescued more than a dozen people after their homes were flooded.

One storm-related death was reported by authorities in the northern Florida town of Ocala, where a fallen tree killed a homeless man sleeping in his tent.