Florence could reach Category 5 strength Tuesday; NC prepares

Katie Ramirez
September 11, 2018

Hurricane Florence is expected to become a risky "major hurricane" by late on Monday as it heads toward the US East Coast, the National Hurricane Center said, as states of emergency were declared in preparation for the storm.

Florence has been upgraded for the second time Monday and is now a Category 4 hurricane, the National Hurricane Center said.

"Assume, presume that a major hurricane is going to hit right smack dab in the middle of SC", said McMaster, urging South Carolinians to prepare for the worst.

The first effects of what forecasters are already calling a large and extremely risky hurricane were already being seen on barrier islands Monday as unsafe rip currents and seawater flowed over the state highway.

Further strengthening is expected, as Florence moves toward North and SC, where it could unleash its fury as the most powerful storm to hit the region in three decades.

As a rapidly strengthening Hurricane Florence aims at Southeast coast, behind it Hurricane Helene, Tropical Storm Isaac and one other potential tropical storm are all brewing.

The largest U.S. Marine Corps base on the East Coast, Camp Lejeune and its extensive beachfront northeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, lie within the NHC's forecast "cone" for possible landfall. Still, the storm would produce flooding rains across a large part of the U.S. South, expanding the damage, according to Enki Research's Watson. They were likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions, according to the NHC.

Isaac strengthened into the fifth hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic season on Sunday, the NHC said, and as of early Monday, it was about 1,230 miles east 1,305 miles (1,985 km) east of the Windward Islands with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph). While Helene's outlook calls for it to head into the open Atlantic, Isaac will probably hit the Caribbean's Lesser Antilles Islands Thursday and potentially brush Puerto Rico, still recovering from last year's Maria, as a strong tropical storm later.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 115 miles.

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Met Service said neither of the storms are a threat to Jamaica.

The governors of Virginia, North Carolina and SC all declared states of emergency. Several computer models have come into agreement Florence will impact the Carolina coastline, with many of them taking the storm inland.

Florence exploded into a potentially catastrophic Category 4 hurricane Monday as it closed in on North and SC, carrying winds up to 140 miles per hour (220 kph) and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week.

"North Carolina is no stranger to hurricanes", Cooper said at a press briefing, noting that previous hurricanes - Matthew in 2016, Floyd in 1999 and Fran in 1996 - brought heavy wind and rain to the entire state.

The storm's first effects were already apparent on barrier islands as unsafe rip currents hit beaches and seawater flowed over a state highway. "Florence could dump a foot of rain in places that cannot handle it, making for a very scary flooding situation in some areas". Forecasters also warned of a rising threat of life-threatening storm surge, along with the damaging winds.

Helene is moving toward the west-northwest near 14 miles per hour (22 km/h).

Hurricane warnings haven't been issued as of yet, but local officials were advising residents to get ready for major Hurricane Florence 2018. The storm was moving west at 14 mph (22 kmh) and expected to accelerate over the next 36 hours.

A "major" hurricane is one with sustained winds of more than 110 miles per hour. Weakening is forecast to begin by the middle of the week.

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