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Tropical Storm Colin hits Florida

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(CNN) — Tropical Storm Colin has made landfall in Florida, dousing much of the state with heavy rains, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The state is bracing for flooding, with Florida Gov. Rick Scott declaring a state of emergency early Monday. Rains have also pounded southern Georgia and South Carolina.

“This is a very quick-moving storm system, and a lot of the energy and a lot of the damage associated with it is going to be displaced off to the east,” CNN Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri said. “By this time tomorrow night — certainly into Wednesday — we’re talking about a storm system that is long-gone.”

Colin’s center was about 55 miles west-southwest of Jacksonville, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center.

It was packing maximum sustained winds of 50 mph and moving toward the northeast at 23 mph.

“The center of Colin will move across northern Florida and southeastern Georgia for the next few hours, and then move near or over the southeastern coast of the United States later today,” the Hurricane Center said. “However, it’s important to note that the strongest winds and heaviest rains are well removed from the center.”

It is expected to race along the U.S. East Coast, pounding the Carolinas as it heads northeast Tuesday, CNN senior meteorologist Taylor Ward said.

By Wednesday afternoon, forecasters said, the storm will be in the Atlantic Ocean.

“We’re looking at another 24 hours of heavy rain from Florida to the coastal Carolinas before it heads out to sea,” Ward said.

The Florida National Guard is ready to deploy up to 6,000 people to areas affected by Colin, the governor said. The state also has a 250-person team responding to road closures and directing traffic during power outages. Parks, schools and camp activities have been closed, and state agencies are closely monitoring infrastructure and conditions.

Flash flooding fears

The rainfall could be welcome news for some as the storm replenishes aquifers in the state that have been low on water, CNN meteorologists said.

“Some of this rain could be 6 inches deep. Now many of these areas have been dry, so we’ll take the rain,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said. “You just don’t want the flooding with this.”

That’s something to watch out for, forecasters from the Hurricane Center warned.

“The combination of a storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters,” the center said.

Heavy rainfall could cause flash flooding, Myers said, as the storm moves across Florida, southern Georgia and South Carolina.

Tropical storm warnings are in effect for the the Florida Gulf coast from Suwannee River to Englewood and from the Sebastian Inlet in Florida on the Atlantic to the Oregon Inlet, along North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Making the best of it

As the storm started to roll in Monday, Cliff York and his family leaned over a wall at their beach hotel in Clearwater to take in the scene.

This isn’t what they had in mind when they left Vincennes, Indiana, for a Florida vacation.

“Sounds like the weather is better in Indiana than it is here,” York joked. “Maybe we just should have stayed there.”

But York said they’ll still find a way to relax.

“We got two sunny days in Orlando,” he said. “Now we have to make the best of what we can while we’re here.”

Dylan Fagan, who lives in Fleming Island, Florida, near Jacksonville, said the rain came out of nowhere and blew through really quickly. He picked up this children early from day care Monday as a precaution.

Earliest third storm on record

Colin is the third tropical storm to form this year in the Atlantic. It’s the earliest that three named storms have hit the region, besting the previous record — which was set in 1887 — by about a week.

Hurricane season officially began June 1. But tropical systems can form during any month of the year.

This year, two named storms formed before the season’s official start.

Alex became a named storm on January 13, the first Atlantic hurricane to form in the month of January since 1938.

Bonnie drenched South Carolina’s coast last month.

Does it mean anything to see storms forming so early?

Not necessarily, forecasters say.

“These first three storms have been very weak systems, even though Bonnie produced a lot of rain in South Carolina,” CNN meteorologist Tom Sater said. “This really means very little when it comes down to how this year may turn out.”

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