MIAMI (AP) - The first named storm of the Atlantic season hammered Florida with rain, heavy winds, and tornadoes Thursday as it moved toward the coast of Georgia and the Carolinas, promising sloppy commutes and waterlogged vacation getaways through the beginning of the weekend.
Tropical Storm Andrea was not expected to strengthen into a hurricane but forecasters warned it could cause isolated flooding and storm surge before it loses steam over the next two days.
Tropical storm warnings were in effect for a large section of Florida's west coast from Boca Grande to the Ochlockonee River and for the East Coast from Flagler Beach, Fla., all the way to Cape Charles Light in Virginia, and the lower Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort. A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within a day and a half.
As of Thursday afternoon, Andrea was centered about 80 miles southeast of Tallahassee, Fla., close to making landfall in Florida's Big Bend area. The storm was moving northeast about 17 mph, and its maximum sustained winds had increased to near 65 mph.
Rains and winds from the storm were forecast to sweep northward along the Southeastern U.S. coast Thursday night and Friday. The storm was expected to lose steam by Saturday as it moves through the eastern United States, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said one of the biggest risks associated with the storm for Florida was the chance of tornadoes, eight of which had been confirmed Thursday across the state. Scott urged residents to remain vigilant.
"This one fortunately is a fast-moving storm," he said. Slower-moving storms can pose a greater flood risk because they have more time to linger and dump rain.
Another threat to Florida's coast was storm surge. The Hurricane Centersaid coastal areas from Tampa Bay north to the Aucilla River could see storm surge of 2 to 4 feet.
the peak surge coincides with high tide.