Strengthening Hurricane Florence blasts toward US East Coast

Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence

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

By Sunday, we're still expected to feel the influence of Florence with possible tropical storm force winds in eastern and central SC.

Swells generated by Florence were affecting Bermuda and starting to reach parts of the U.S. East Coast.

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.

The rain and wind slightly ramp up Friday night into Saturday, it's during this time Florence is expected to move into the northeastern regions of SC after making landfall in North Carolina.

Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued by the governors of North and SC and Virginia for coastal areas. It was expected to strengthen into a hurricane then weaken by the middle of the week.

"Maximum sustained winds are now 75 miles per hour, and further strengthening is forecast over the coming days", said CNN senior meteorologist Dave Hennen. It was moving west at 6 miles per hour.

Florence barreling closer to coast of Carolinas
The entire coastlines of North and SC , in addition to some parts of southeastern Virginia, are under a mandatory evacuation plan. Utility officials have warned that widespread power outages are likely and that it could take weeks to restore electricity.

The storm surge is already happening and hurricane force winds will be a problem through the afternoon, but the long-term issue will be dealing with heavy rain from the storm. The plans could change if forecasts indicate a decrease in the strength or change in the track of the storm.

Classified as a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength, Florence stood as the most severe storm to threaten the USA mainland this year and the first of its magnitude to take aim at the Carolinas since 1989, when Hurricane Hugo barrelled over Charleston, South Carolina.

Navy ships off Virginia's coast were preparing to sail out of the path, a North Carolina university has already canceled classes and people have begun stocking up on plywood, bottled water and other supplies.

As of 11 p.m. EDT, Florence was centered about 685 miles (1,100 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda, moving west at 7 mph (11 kmh).

A warm ocean is the fuel that powers hurricanes, and Florence will be moving over waters where temperatures are peaking near 85 degrees (30 Celsius), hurricane specialist Eric Blake wrote.

North Carolina officials started getting bulldozers and chain saws ready. The northernmost landfall was made by Hazel, a devastating and deadly storm that struck close to the South Carolina/North Carolina border in October 1954.

Forecasters at the NHC said Florence would continue to strengthen and "is expected to remain an extremely risky major hurricane through Thursday".

NHC Forecast: Hurricane Florence is rapidly strengthening
The storm was located roughly 1,170 miles east-southeast of the Cape Fear region, and remained a unsafe Category 4 storm. As of 11 a.m., Florence was centered about 580 miles south-southeast of Bermuda, moving west at 13 mph.

Forecasters said it is too early to know the exact path the storm will take but warned that it could roll ashore in the Carolinas by Thursday.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said his state was "in the bullseye" of the storm and urged people to "get ready now". The Navy planned to send ships from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia out to sea. Vessels that can't leave port will prepare by a variety of means, from adding mooring and storm lines to dropping anchor and disconnecting shore power cables. The latest data shows the Tri-County being affected by tropical storm force winds Friday morning until Saturday morning with winds between 35 mph to 45 mph and gusts of 60 mph. Forecasters say that because of the size the storm is expected to attain, it will wreak havoc regardless of how strong its winds are.

Florence is one of three hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, along with Helene and Isaac.

"I'm telling them to go inland, but I'm anxious about the rain and tornadoes too", Roberts said.

Risky storms are also threatening parts of the the Pacific Ocean. The hurricane center says "catastrophic" Category 4 storms generate sustained winds of at least 130 miles per hour.

The center also said that Hurricane Isaac has become the 5th named hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic season.

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