Florence becomes a hurricane, barrels toward US East Coast

Clark Diaz
September 11, 2018

Hurricane Florence's top winds exploded to 130 miles (209 km) per hour, making it a Category 4 storm, just one-step short of the most severe level as it pushed westward toward the U.S. East Coast.

Large swells affecting Bermuda and portions of the U.S. East Coast will continue this week.

On its current track, the storm could make landfall around the Carolinas on Thursday or Friday.

On North Carolina's Outer Banks, Dawn Farrow Taylor, 50, was gathering photos and important documents and filling prescriptions Monday before heading inland. Helene is expected to become a hurricane later today as it pulls away from the Cabo Verde islands.

"This is going to be big", said Victoria Oliva, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington said early Monday morning.

In Charleston, South Carolina, along the coast, city officials offered sandbags to residents.

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"A hurricane is coming our way".

"Florence is. expected to remain an extremely risky major hurricane through Thursday", the hurricane center warned. "Be prepared. Be ready", said Gov. Henry McMaster.

Florence is a category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

"Florence is forecast to rapidly strengthen to a major hurricane by Monday night, and is expected to remain an extremely risky major hurricane through Thursday", the advisory added.

McMaster's declaration is to give the state time to prepare for the possible arrival of a hurricane.

Navy ships off Virginia's coast were preparing to sail out of the path, a North Carolina university has already canceled classes and people have begun stocking up on plywood, bottled water and other supplies.

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Cooper also urged people to learn what evacuation routes to take, and put fuel in their vehicles in case they're ordered to leave.

The National Hurricane Center warned Sunday that all predictions about Florence are in their preliminary stages, as the storm's too far off to guess precisely where it will go.

Forecasters cautioned, though, Florence could impact anywhere from northern Florida to north of the Washington, D.C., area.

For Central Florida, it is becoming likely that Florence will bring significant wave activity in the Atlantic, along with a unsafe high rip current threat and possible coastal erosion.

According to the National Hurricane Center's 5 p.m. Sunday update, the storm has picked up power and speed, tracking west at 12 miles per hour. While Helene's outlook calls for it to head into the open Atlantic, Isaac will probably hit the Caribbean's Lesser Antilles Islands Thursday and potentially brush Puerto Rico, still recovering from last year's Maria, as a strong tropical storm later.

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