Hurricane Florence strengthened early on Monday with maximum sustained winds of 105 miles per hour (170 kph) and forecasters warned it could soon become a major hurricane as it churns toward the U.S. East Coast.
The storm is also expected to grow in size as it crosses warm ocean waters and faces little wind shear, on course for a US landfall between SC and the mid Atlantic by late Wednesday or early Thursday.
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.
Several meteorologists said Florence could do what Hurricane Harvey did past year over Texas, dumping days of rain, although not quite as bad.
Cooper said state emergency management officials are working with local and federal agencies to prepare North Carolina for possible impacts from Florence. Hurricane Floyd was a Category 4 storm before it hit Florida, traveled up the coast and struck Cape Fear as a strong Category 2 storm. To the east of Florence, forecasters are also watching tropical storms Helene and Isaac.
Classified as a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength, Florence stood as the most severe storm to threaten the USA mainland this year and the first of its magnitude to take aim at the Carolinas since 1989, when Hurricane Hugo barreled over Charleston, South Carolina. Hurricane Florence has the potential to provide us with multiple inches of rain, but we're continuing to watch its track closely to better determine how much rain we could get.
The region is also a big supplier of the nation's cotton, with North Carolina ranking ninth among states for the current 2018-19 crop year, SC 11 and Virginia 16.
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Preparations for Florence come as the Atlantic hurricane season hits its peak. "I plan to do most of my cooking on the grill". The storm is 1,305 miles east of the Windward Islands.
Two hurricane hunter planes and an Air Force C-130 are being used to investigate the storm.
Hurricanes Helene and Isaac are not expected to hit the U.S. mainland.
Red flags have already been flying on beaches, warning swimmers to stay out of the water as seas began kicking up.
US landfall could come Friday between Charleston, South Carolina and Norfolk, Virginia, the Hurricane Center said. People rushed to get emergency kits ready, map out escape routes and fill sandbags and secure their homes.
Most of the projected paths show Florence making landfall in North Carolina. Whiteville's Lowes Home Improvement Store was doing a brisk business in plywood, duct tape, and generators Sunday afternoon. "We know we can't play around with this", said Jennifer Oosterwyk, who owns the Sugar Britches boutique on Holden Beach and lives in nearby Wilmington.
In southeast Virginia, Naval Station Norfolk told its employees they should not leave their vehicles parked at the sprawling base in coming days because of the flood threat. The university said Sunday that it has issued a voluntary evacuation for students starting at midday Monday, noting classes would be cancelled.