Tropical storm Andrea intensified Thursday as it approached Florida's western coast.
The first tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, Andrea has already lead to multiple storm warnings along the U.S. East Coast, stretching from Boca Grande off Florida's west coast to Cape Charles Light in Virginia
Tropical Storm Andrea's maximum sustained winds increased to near 60 mph and the storm was expected to make landfall in Florida's Big Bend area Thursday afternoon before moving across southeastern Georgia and the Carolinas. It was not expected to strengthen into a hurricane, The Associated Press reported.
"The rain covers a good portion of the Florida peninsula even though the center is a couple of hundred miles off shore," said Eric Blake, a hurricane specialist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.
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Storm surge would be the biggest threat as the storm comes onshore, Blake said. The Hurricane Center expects a storm surge of 2 to 4 feet "near and to the south" of where the center makes landfall.
He added that flash flooding was a concern, with 3 to 6 inches of rain expected. Isolated areas in Florida and southeastern Georgia could get 8 inches of rain.
Already, the National Weather Service in Tampa confirmed two tornados touched down early Thursday — one in Myakka City and the other in Sun City Center. Meteorologist Rodney Wynn said there were reports of downed tree limbs and power lines and minor damage to the porch on at least one home. There were no reports of injuries.
Wynn said there have also been reports of minor flooding in the area, including along Tampa's Bayshore Drive.
Tornado warnings and watches could be issued throughout the day.
The storm was expected to hug the coastline, bringing rain as far as the southern New England area through the weekend.
As of about 5 a.m. EDT Thursday, the storm was centered about 220 miles west-southwest of Tampa and was moving north-northeast near 13 mph.
In anticipation of the storm, Florida's Gulf Islands National Seashore on Wednesday closed its campgrounds and the road that runs through the popular beach-front park.
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During heavy rains, floods are often reported on the park road of the national seashore, which abuts Pensacola Beach.
Condominium associations on Pensacola Beach requested that residents remove furniture on high balconies due to the anticipated high winds. Additionally, tourists were cautioned by beach lifeguards to avoid high surf.
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