Hurricane Florence strengthens to Category 2 storm

TROPICS: Florence expected to produce damaging winds in Carolinas

Hurricane Florence on the brink of becoming major storm as 165 km/h winds menace U.S. east coast

As forecasters closely monitor the exact track of Hurricane Florence, there is growing certainty that Eastern North Carolina will see significant impacts from the storm. Florence has maximum sustained winds of 105 miles per hour, though that number is likely to increase as the storm strengthens.

National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham warned that Florence was forecast to linger over the Carolinas once it reaches shore.

Governors in the Carolinas, Virginia and Maryland have declared emergencies.

In announcing his evacuation order, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said an estimated 1 million people would be fleeing the coast.

A BP gas station in Wilmington, North Carolina - where the storm was predicted to land - was out of gas for about two hours on Monday evening, said assistant store manager Nadine Schrock. "When you stall a system like this and it moves real slow, some of that rainfall can extend well away from the centre".

Maps of the storm's trajectory showed it most likely to hit the North Carolina shore near the SC border, making it the most powerful storm to threaten the USA mainland this year and the first of its magnitude in 29 years to strike the Carolinas.

"I don't think many of us have ever been through a Category 4". Florence was upgraded twice Monday to a Category 4.

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Historically, 90 percent of fatalities from hurricanes, tropical storms and tropical depressions have been caused by water, said NHC spokesman Dennis Feltgen said. "While it is too soon to determine the exact timing, location, and magnitude of these impacts, interests at the coast and inland from SC into the mid-Atlantic region should closely monitor the progress of Florence, ensure they have their hurricane plan in place, and follow any advice given by local officials".

"This is a huge storm", said Robert Woodward, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, predicting 15 to 20 inches (38 to 50 centimeters) of rain.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's office warned of "catastrophic inland flooding, high winds and possible widespread power outages", cautioning that the deadliest risk would come from flooding.

As meteorologist Stu Ostro of The Weather Channel reports via Twitter, since 1851, only four Category 4 hurricanes have made landfall north of Florida on the East Coast. A "Hurricane Hunter" aircraft recorded maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour.

Hurricanes Isaac, which could hit Caribbean islands, and Helene, much farther out to sea, lined up behind Florence as the 2018 Atlantic season reached its peak.

In the Pacific, Tropical Storm Olivia is set to sweep through the Hawaiian islands Tuesday, where tropical storm watches have been posted. "We've just been overwhelmed with requests by state agencies and everybody else", he said.

But the season is just now peaking, and Hurricanes Florence, Isaac, and Helene are a stark reminder that we are not out of the woods yet.

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