Tropical storm Florence likely to become a hurricane, forecasters say

Government officials from the Carolinas to the Mid-Atlantic on Monday were preparing for a possible direct strike from Hurricane Florence later in the week, as the Category 2 storm continues to gain strength over the Atlantic, 625 miles southeast of Bermuda.

Florence was 575 miles (925 kilometers) south-southeast of Bermuda and the center of the hurricane was forecast to pass between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday, the NHC said.

Cooper declared a state of emergency in North Carolina, as did his counterparts in neighboring SC and Virginia.

Packing maximum sustained winds of 85 miles per hour (140 kph), Florence ranked as a Category 1 hurricane and was expected to get larger as it develops by Monday into a major hurricane, defined as Category 3 or higher on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale.

Landfall could be made between SC and North Carolina on Thursday, according to NHC predictions.

Florence is expected to be back at Cat 4 as it approaches the Atlantic Coast this Wednesday to Thursday.

And with little wind shear to pull the storm apart, Florence's hurricane wind field was expected to expand over the coming days, increasing its storm surge and inland wind threats along with life-threatening freshwater flooding. Advisories warning of unsafe beach conditions or coastal flooding were in effect for parts of New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

At 11 p.m. ET, the hurricane centre said Florence's maximum sustained winds were estimated to be 70 miles per hour (110 kph).

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

At a press conference with the state's Emergency Management Division director Kim Stenson, McMaster told residents to follow a "Hurricane Guide" and prepare their homes.

Florence has rapidly strengthened into a potentially catastrophic Category 4 hurricane.

Further to the east, forecasters are also watching hurricanes Isaac and Helene.

"North Carolina is taking Hurricane Florence seriously, and you should, too", Cooper said.

Tropical Storm Helene is in the Far Eastern Atlantic, just off the African Coast.

But most of the many "spaghetti" models for Florence agree that the storm is headed to the East Coast near the Carolinas.

Tropical Depression 9 is located in the Atlantic Ocean and is moving westward.

The Navy said all ships in Virginia's coastal Hampton Roads area were preparing to leave port for open seas.

  • Joe Gonzales