Hurricane Florence is expected to become a unsafe "major hurricane" by late on Monday as it heads toward the US East Coast, the National Hurricane Center said, as states of emergency were declared in preparation for the storm.
PETERSBURG Three named storms have formed in the Atlantic Ocean, with the closest expected to become Hurricane Florence on Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say Florence is expected to be an extremely risky storm by the time it nears the coast of SC or North Carolina on Thursday. "Florence is forecast to rapidly strengthen to a major hurricane by Monday, and is expected to remain an extremely unsafe major hurricane through Thursday", the advisory says.
US landfall could come Friday between Charleston, South Carolina and Norfolk, Virginia, the Hurricane Center said.
The National Hurricane Center will issue its next update on Florence at 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Hurricane-force winds could buffet the Carolinas by Wednesday night with landfall likely in SC and North Carolina on Thursday, followed by heavy rains that could cause flooding in much of the US Southeast, the NHC said.
More than 3.9 million homes that would cost more than a $1 trillion to rebuild are at risk from hurricanes on the U.S. Atlantic coast from ME to Florida, according to CoreLogic, a property analytics firm in Irvine, California.
Residents as far north as Virginia were warned that Florence could bring a life-threatening coastal storm surge, as well as inland flooding from "prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall", the NHC said.
At 0500 GMT Isaac, which the NHC called a small hurricane, was about 1,200 miles east of the Windward Islands - a region still recovering from last year's powerful Hurricane Maria - with maximum sustained winds near 75 miles per hour.
Earlier Sunday Florence regained its hurricane status and rapid strengthening from here is expected since the storm is encountering less wind shear and warm waters.
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Hurricanes Helene and Isaac are not expected to hit the United States mainland.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said his state was "in the bullseye" of the storm and urged people to "get ready now". "The 12Z Sunday GFS model run also showed this scenario, but the 12Z Sunday UKMET model now has landfall occurring in North Carolina".
"We're not going to gamble with the lives of the people of SC", the state's governor, Henry McMaster, said in an afternoon press briefing Monday as he announced that eight counties along the state's 187-mile coastline would begin to evacuate on Tuesday.
A Category 3 hurricane packs winds of between 111 and 129 miles per hour, the hurricane center said.
Still, it remains unclear where Florence will make landfall, and, therefore, which areas will feel the worst impact. Smithfield Foods Inc., the No. 1 hog producer, and chicken producer Sanderson Farms Inc. saw their North Carolina operations disrupted in 2016 due to flooding from Hurricane Matthew.
Florence is moving toward the west-northwest near 15 miles per hour. (Also important note, a Category 5 Hurricane has never made landfall on North Carolina) Florence is unique however because it's nearly taking a beeline course to the coastline.
"These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip currents", the hurricane center said.
"Traffic was backed up for about 9 miles (14 km) in places", said Paul Jones, a retiree who owns a vacation home on Hatteras Island.
A westward motion is forecast to continue through the end of the week, with Isaac expected to move across the Lesser Antilles and into the eastern Caribbean Sea Wednesday night or Thursday. Florence could grow into a Category 4, with sustained winds of at least 130 miles per hour as it crosses over the warm Atlantic waters.