Hurricane Florence prompts mandatory evacuations as it nears Category 5 strength

STORM-FLORENCE

Forecasters said rapid intensification is likely to begin by tonight and Florence is expected to become a major hurricane by Monday.

Landfall is expected in the Carolinas later this week, said the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Its center will move between Bermuda and the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday, and approach the coast of SC or North Carolina on Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said.

"Florence is. expected to remain an extremely unsafe major hurricane through Thursday", the hurricane center warned.

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.

Located 765 miles southeast of Bermuda, Florence is moving west at around six miles per hour.

Stocks in weather-sensitive industries reacted as Hurricane Florence moved closer to the U.S. East Coast on Monday. 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.

The hurricane center warned that the swells are likely to cause "life-threatening" surf and current conditions.

The storm's sustained winds reached 75 mph (121 kph), just over the threshold for a hurricane, on Sunday morning as it was swirling across the Atlantic, about 750 miles (1,210 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda.

Florence was previously named the first Category 4 hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic season last week, but later weakened to a tropical storm, before starting to regain its strength again.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's office described Florence as possibly the state's "most significant hurricane event in decades", and warned of "catastrophic inland flooding, high winds and possible widespread power outages".

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The governors of North and SC and Virginia declared states of emergency to give them time to prepare, and the Navy said ships in Virginia's Hampton Roads area would leave port for their own safety.

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

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.

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.

"There is an increasing risk of life-threatening impacts from Florence", the hurricane center has been saying for days.

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 NPR's Bill Chappell reported, the town of Mountain View on the Big Island recorded 51.53 inches of rain as a result of Lane, the third-highest total ever measured from a USA storm.

"Pretend, assume, presume that a major hurricane is going to hit right smack dab in the middle of South Carolina and is going to go way inshore", South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said. That heavy rain will come as a result of Florence not making a lot of movement away from the Carolinas after making landfall. Major hurricanes have winds of at least 111 miles per hour (179 kph).

Florence is moving toward the west near 9 km/h, and this general motion is expected to continue today.

A photo taken from the International Space Station by astronaut Ricky Arnold shows Hurricane Florence over the Atlantic Ocean in the early morning hours of September 6, 2018.

Graham urged coastal residents to finish their planning before the arrival of tropical-storm-force windows on Wednesday.

Isaac will be near the Lesser Antilles later this week and could bring impacts to parts of the Caribbean Islands during this time frame.

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