Hurricane Florence strengthens, churns toward US Southeast coast

Hurricane Florence tracker

Hurricane Florence tracker

Isaac, which became a tropical storm Saturday afternoon, was intensifying and expected to become a hurricane, the National Hurricane Center said Sunday.

The National Hurricane Center said Florence was expected to slam into the coast around North and SC as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane on Thursday or Friday.

Gov. Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency for North Carolina Friday, and Sunday his office sent out a news release urging residents to start taking precautions. Forecasters said rapid intensification is likely to begin by tonight and Florence is expected to become a major hurricane by Monday.

Lining up behind Florence, Isaac was about 1,150 miles east of the Windward Islands with top winds of 75 mph early Monday, moving west at 14 mph.

The National Hurricane Center says it is still too early to predict the storm's exact path, but a huge coastal area from northern Florida to North Carolina should prepare for a possible a "major hurricane".

Residents as far north as Virginia were warned that Florence posed an increasing risk of generating a life-threatening coastal storm surge, as well as flooding from heavy rainfall should the slow-moving storm stall over the southeast. Not long after, a Hurricane Hunter flight measured sustained winds near 130 miles per hour, prompting the National Hurricane Center to issue a rare special advisory, upgrading the storm to Category 4.

According to the National Hurricane Center, the system had been churning in the Atlantic Ocean at 35 miles per hour, just under the 39 miles per hour threshold that would turn it into a tropical storm.

The NHC was also tracking two other storms farther out in the Atlantic. It expects to issue hurricane watches for parts of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic coast Tuesday morning.

But most of the many "spaghetti" models for Florence agree that the storm is headed to the East Coast near the Carolinas. While larger than Katrina (which was 415 miles wide), it still has a ways to go to reach the record width of 1,000 miles from Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Officials in North Carolina are already bracing for impact.

The biggest threats include flooding and damaging winds.

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.

Helene is still a Tropical Storm.

A hurricane hunter plane found Florence strengthening quickly after it became a hurricane Sunday. The Navy planned to send ships from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia out to sea.

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