Florence regains hurricane strength, on track to hit U.S. East Coast

ABC News

ABC News

Florence grew into a major hurricane on Monday morning and was upgraded again to a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength at midday as its top sustained wind speeds reached 130 miles per hour.

As of 5 p.m. Monday, Florence was tracking west-northwest at 11 mph just less than 1,200 miles east-southeast from Cape Fear, North Carolina.

Further to the east, forecasters are also watching hurricanes Isaac and Helene. The National Hurricane Center said it was still too early to predict the hurricane's exact path. It said Florence could become a major hurricane "very soon". Gov. Ralph Northam ordered a mandatory evacuation to begin at 8 a.m. Tuesday for 245,000 people in parts of the Hampton Roads area and the Eastern shore.

The storms first effects were already apparent on barrier islands as risky rip currents hit beaches and seawater flowed over a state highway. Emergency declarations were issued by the governors in both states, as well as in Virginia and Maryland.

Forecasters urged residents from SC to the mid-Atlantic to get ready - and not just for a direct blow against the coast.

"North Carolina is taking Hurricane Florence seriously, and you should, too", Cooper said. Forecast models suggest that more than two feet of rain could fall over the higher elevations of the Carolinas and Virginia, which would generate unsafe flooding downstream.

The National Hurricane Center warned residents to prepare for heavy rainfall and "life-threatening hazards" later in the week. ET, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in an advisory.

If Florence makes landfall as a Category 4 in North Carolina, it will be the strongest storm to come ashore that far north on record.

Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued by the governors of North and SC and Virginia for coastal areas.

It is expected to pickup speed, moving between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday and could make landfall as a Category 3 or higher on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, the NHC said.

Olivia is expected to move west through Monday before turning west-southwest late Monday and early Tuesday local time. Most of the state of Hawaii was under either a tropical storm warning or watch on Monday morning, as Hurricane Olivia bears westward, with 85 miles per hour winds.

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"Florence is forecast to rapidly strengthen to a major hurricane by Monday night, and is expected to remain an extremely unsafe major hurricane through Thursday", the advisory added.

September 7 - Florence very rapidly lost strength, falling to tropical storm status on September 7, but by that point, forecasters had noted that the storm's future track was appearing to center on a possible landfall on the East Coast of the United States. A hurricane becomes a major (category 3) hurricane once winds reach 111 miles per hour.

The governors of North and SC and Virginia declared states of emergency far ahead of the approaching storm.

Some forecasts call for Florence to stall out after it strikes the coast.

About an hour after the Category 3 upgrade, the storm was reclassified once again, now as Category 4.

"The Storms in the Atlantic are very unsafe", President Trump said. People rushed to buy bottled water, plywood and other supplies.

In coastal Charleston, South Carolina, city officials offered sandbags to residents, while Myrtle Beach officials urged people to secure their homes.

In Jacksonville, North Carolina, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the coast, some residents picked up hurricane supplies during their normal weekend shopping, The Daily News reported.

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

Florida-based Carnival Cruise Line was re-routing its cruise ships, but there were other hurricanes to contend with. Isaac, which was moving toward the lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, could bring heavy rain and become a hurricane overnight, CNN meteorologist Tom Sater said.

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