Florence strengthens 'rapidly,' now powerful Category 4 hurricane

Three storms — Florence Isaac and Helene — were moving across the Atlantic early Sunday

Hurricane Florence is expected to make landfall somewhere between North Carolina, South Carolina, and the Mid-Atlantic states on Thursday evening or Friday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency in North Carolina, as did his counterparts in neighbouring sc and Virginia. It was moving to the west-northwest at 9 miles per hour with maximum sustained winds of 105 miles per hour.

Florence is expected to be an extremely unsafe major hurricane through Thursday night.

This NOAA/RAMMB satellite image taken at 12:15:31 UTC on September 10, 2018, shows Hurricane Florence off the USA east coast in the Atantic Ocean.

The Charlotte region has a better than 50 percent chance of seeing tropical storm-force winds (between 39 and 73 mph) later this week, according to the latest forecasts from the National Hurricane Center.

The NHC also was tracking two other hurricanes farther out in the Atlantic: Category 1 Isaac and Category 2 Helene.

Handout via Getty Images Hurricane Florence is seen traveling west over the Atlantic Ocean on September 10, 2018. Florence was a Category 4 storm late afternoon Monday.

As of 5 a.m., Florence was centred about 625 miles southeast of Bermuda, moving west at 9 miles per hour.

Though weakened to a tropical storm, Florence was expected to regain hurricane strength as it neared Bermuda.

For many people, the challenge could be finding a safe refuge: If Florence slows to a crawl just off the coast, it could bring torrential rains to the Appalachian mountains and as far away as West Virginia, causing flash floods, mudslides and other risky conditions.

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Cooper's emergency declaration makes it possible to waive the state's transportation rules so North Carolina farmers can harvest and transport their crops to market faster.

Mindful of devastation wrought by a string of deadly US hurricanes past year, jittery residents in the Carolinas began the rituals of disaster preparation - boarding up windows and stocking up on groceries, water and gasoline. As of 5 p.m., hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 40 miles from the storm's center, while tropical storm-force winds extend out 150 miles. The hurricane is likely to bring risky surf and rip currents along the east coast.

"We expect a rapid intensification of Florence tomorrow", Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center, said on Sunday.

On Saturday, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the storm.

Emergency management officials reported waves already starting to crash over Hatteras Island's main highway where dunes were breached by heavy surf, slowing traffic to a crawl.

"With this order government agencies will begin to mobilize in anticipation of a hurricane", McMaster said.

"The most likely scenario is that it hits the North Carolina coast", meteorologist Dale Eck said in an interview.

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

The Navy planned to send ships from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia out to sea.

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