News

Florence becomes a hurricane before approaching US coast

Written by Pamela Sampson/The Associated Press | Sep 9, 2018 9:24 AM
Hurricane Florence 640x300.jpg

This enhanced satellite image made available by NOAA shows Tropical Storm Florence, center, in the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 at 2:45 p.m. EDT. (NOAA via AP)

(Atlanta) -- Tropical Storm Florence turned into a hurricane Sunday morning and swirled toward the U.S. for what forecasters said could be a direct hit on the Southeast toward the end of the week.

The storm's sustained winds reached 75 mph (121 kph), just over the threshold for a hurricane, as it made its way across the Atlantic, about 750 miles (1,210 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda, the National Hurricane Center said. It was moving west at 6 mph.

The Miami-based center said that it was still too early to predict the hurricane's exact path but that a huge coastal area from South Carolina to the mid-Atlantic region should prepare for a major strike late in the week.

"All indications are that Florence will be an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane while it moves over the western Atlantic toward the southeastern United States," the hurricane center said. A Category 4 storm packs winds of 130 mph (209 kph) or more and has the potential for catastrophic damage.

The governors of North and South Carolina and Virginia declared states of emergency to give them time to prepare, and the Navy said ships in Virginia's Hampton Roads area would leave port for their own safety.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement Sunday that coastal and inland residents alike need to get ready for potentially heavy rainfall and flooding from the storm. Cooper urged residents to "review your emergency plans and gather your supplies now."

The South Carolina Emergency Management Division tweeted Sunday that officials there are "preparing for the possibility of a large-scale disaster."

The storm brings with it an increasing risk of two life-threatening impacts: storm surge along the coast and freshwater flooding from prolonged rains, the hurricane center said.

Dangerous swells generated by Florence affected Bermuda and have begun to reach parts of the Eastern Seaboard.

The National Weather Center warned of dangerous rip currents in popular tourist areas like Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks. Advisories warning of dangerous beach conditions or coastal flooding were in effect for parts of New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

*An earlier version of this story appears below*

(Atlanta) -- The U.S. East Coast could be hit with a powerful hurricane as Tropical Storm Florence continues to strengthen as it moves toward the mainland, forecasters said Saturday.

Florence is expected to become a major hurricane by Monday, the National Hurricane Center said, adding that "a rapid intensification" is forecast to begin Sunday.

The storm is forecast to become a "major hurricane" Monday, travel between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday before approaching the southeastern U.S. coast on Thursday, the Miami-based weather center said.

Officials in the Carolinas warned residents to prepare and to brace for impact.

Governors in both South Carolina and Virginia declared a state of emergency Saturday to give their states time to prepare for the possible arrival of the storm. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster emphasized that there's no way to know yet when and where the storm will hit land, or when evacuations might be called.

On Friday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency and urged residents to use the weekend to prepare for the possibility of a natural disaster.

"We are entering the peak of hurricane season and we know well the unpredictability and power of these storms," Cooper said.

The U.S. Navy is making preparations this weekend for its ships in the Hampton Roads area to leave port. The U.S. Fleet Forces Command said in a news release Saturday that the ships will get ready in anticipation of getting under way Monday to avoid storm damage.

Adm. Christopher Grady said in a statement that the decision was based on Florence's current track, which indicates the area could see strong sustained winds and storm surges.

The news release notes that plans could change if forecasts indicate a decrease in the strength or change in the track of the storm.

Swells generated by Florence are affecting Bermuda and starting to reach parts of the Eastern Seaboard, the National Weather Service said.

At 5 a.m. EDT, the hurricane center said Florence's maximum sustained winds were estimated to be 70 mph (110 kph). The storm was centered about 765 miles (1,235 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda and moving west at 6 mph (9 kph).

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