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NEW: Now a post-tropical cyclone, Andrea was near Raleigh, North Carolina, at 5 p.m.
Flash flood watches extend up the East Coast
Washington and New York are among the cities that may see Andrea-related flooding
Forecast warns that rains and storm surges could cause problems in coastal areas
Jim Shepperd was just crossing the Howard Frankland Bridge from Tampa to St. Petersburg when the winds whipped furiously and the first named storm of the hurricane season began its one-two punch on the Tampa Bay area.
By the time he and his chow-shepherd mix, Aussie, made it home to Gulfport, Tropical Storm Andrea was thrashing his neighborhood. Just down the street, a tornado touched down, felling a massive 200-year-old cedar tree. “There were a lot of trees down,” the hairstylist said Friday morning. “We’re lucky. We’re OK.”
By 5 p.m. ET, Andrea’s heavy rain had moved on, targeting a broad swath of the East Coast. The storm, categorized as a post-tropical cyclone with sustained winds of up to 45 mph, was about 55 miles northeast of Raleigh, North Carolina, and continuing on its predicted path up the Northeast Coast.
Forecasters say it’s expected to drench 13 states from Georgia to Maine.
Meteorologists want everyone in Andrea’s path to know this: The storm’s biggest danger will probably be flash floods.
The National Weather Service offers tips on what to do in a flooding situation. In short, road beds may be washed out under flood waters, so never drive through flooded roadways.
At 11 a.m. Friday, the National Hurricane Center said Andrea was packing 45-mph winds and was about 50 miles southwest of Fayetteville, North Carolina, and 90 miles west of Wilmington, North Carolina.
Andrea is expected to produce 2 to 4 inches of rain in central and eastern North Carolina. Up to 2 inches are expected over portions of South Carolina.
The watch area includes Washington, which the National Weather Service predicts could get up to 6 inches of rain Friday, and New York City, where forecasters say 1 to 2 inches of rain an hour could fall at times into Saturday.
Even Maine’s coast, including Portland, could see as much as 3 inches of rain by the time this weekend is done.
Follow the storm on CNN.com’s hurricane tracker
The projected path is similar to Tropical Storm Debby nearly a year ago. Debby dumped up to 2 feet of rain onto the low-lying region, causing extensive flooding in some coastal towns.
CNN meteorologists Sean Morris and Ivan Cabrera contributed to this report.