DEKLE BEACH: Hermine tore across northern Florida today as the first hurricane to hit the state in more than a decade, killing one person, raising a storm surge that destroyed beachside buildings and toppling trees into homes.
As the system pushed into Georgia, it knocked down power lines in both states. Hundreds of thousands of people were without electricity.
Hermine was expected to move into the Carolinas and roll up the East Coast, bringing the potential for drenching rain and devastating flooding through the Labor Day weekend.
By today afternoon, it had weakened to a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph.
The National Hurricane Center issued tropical storm watches and warnings as far north as the Connecticut-Rhode Island border.
"Anyone along the US East Coast needs to be paying close attention this weekend," center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said.
Although damage was still being assessed, Gov Rick Scott said he knew of no other "major issues" besides the power outages and damaged roads.
It was unclear whether he had received word of damage to remote and sparsely populated beach areas just south of the Big Bend, where the peninsula meets the Panhandle.
A homeless man in Marion County, south of Gainesville, was killed when he was hit by a tree, Scott said at a news conference.
At Dekle Beach, a storm surge damaged numerous homes and destroyed storage buildings and a 100-yard fishing pier. The area is about 60 miles southeast of St Marks, where Hermine made landfall at 1.30 AM.
Nancy Geohagen walked around collecting photos and other items for her neighbors that had been thrown from storage.
"I know who this baseball bat belongs to," she said plucking it from a pile of debris.
An unnamed spring storm that hit the beach in 1993 killed 10 people who refused to evacuate. This time, only three residents stayed behind. All escaped injury.
In nearby Steinhatchee, a storm surge crashed into Bobbi Pattison's home. She wore galoshes and was covered in black muck as she stood in her living room amid overturned furniture and an acrid smell. Tiny crabs darted around her floor.
"I had a hurricane cocktail party last night and God got even with me," she said with a chuckle. Where her bar once stood now was only wet sand and rubble.
Pattison and two neighbors managed to set upright a large wooden statue of a sea captain she had carved from wood that washed ashore in the 1993 storm.