Most powerful storm in a decade slams Florida; first death investigated as region assesses damage – Los Angeles Times

Hermine, the first hurricane to strike Florida in more than a decade, made landfall on the Florida Gulf Coast early Friday morning, pummeling small seaside towns with powerful 80 mph winds and heavy rain.

The Category 1 hurricane crashed ashore early Friday near St. Marks, a tiny town with a population of less than 300, in the low-lying, marshy Big Bend area, where the state’s peninsula meets the Panhandle.

In St. Marks, the storm surge flooded the Riverside Café, the Sweet Magnolia Inn and Bo Lynn’s Grocery, the community’s only market. Yet it did not reach the post office as it did when Hurricane Kate swept through the region in 1985.

“It just came up like a torrent, like you’re on the river rapids,” said Denise Waters, owner of the Sweet Magnolia Inn, which began to fill with 18 inches of water around dusk Thursday night. Stormwater pooled in all the lower rooms, damaging her etched-glass doors and baby grand piano, and leaving mud all over her baseboards.

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