Florence, the sixth tropical storm in the Atlantic basin this year, intensified into a hurricane on Sunday and will rapidly gain force as it churns over the open ocean toward the U.S. East Coast, with landfall likely in the Carolinas later this week, forecasters said.
Even though the National Hurricane Center has slightly shifted the track of Hurricane Florence to the north, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster is urging residents to start getting prepared now. Tropical storm force winds could be felt in Charlotte from this system.
The storm's sustained winds reached 75 mph (121 kph), just over the threshold for a hurricane, as it made its way across the Atlantic, about 750 miles (1,210 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda, the National Hurricane Center said.
The National Weather Service is forecasting what could be "Virginia's most significant hurricane event in decades", according to a news release from the governor's office Sunday.
The governors of North and SC and Virginia declared states of emergency.
The latest path Sunday afternoon showed the storm hitting the Carolinas squarely, and Florence is moving slowly.
The hurricane center predicted between nine and 13 named storms this season, four to seven of which would be hurricanes.
"We are entering the peak of hurricane season and we know well the unpredictability and power of these storms", Cooper said.
The Navy planned to send ships from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia out to sea.
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Could Florence threaten Cape Cod as a hurricane?
At one time a powerful Category 3 hurricane, Florence has weakened over the last day or two. "Interests near and along the U.S. After a period of rapid weakening, Tropical Storm Florence is once again beginning to gain strength as it progresses westward.
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State emergency management is working with counties across North Carolina along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the state's Emergency Response Team to prepare.
The news release notes that plans could change if forecasts indicate a decrease in the strength or change in the track of the storm.
Hurricane Helene, was spinning in the Atlantic off West Africa's Cabo Verde Islands with 85-mph (140-kph) winds on Sunday, but did not appear to pose an immediate threat to land.
Across the Southeast, people were urged to put together emergency supply kits, prepare their homes and research evacuation routes.
Storm surge is the abnormal rise of water generated by a storm's winds.
Flooding from heavy rains is the second leading cause of fatalities from landfalling tropical cyclones. This flooding can persist for several days after a storm has dissipated.
There are no coastal watches or warnings in effect, but officials say it is expected to become a hurricane by Monday.
Unsafe waves produced by a tropical cyclone's strong winds can pose a significant hazard to coastal residents and mariners.
Tropical Storm Isaac, which packed sustained winds of 70 miles per hour as of Sunday afternoon, is forecast to grow into a Category 1 hurricane.