In a 8 a.m. update, National Hurricane Center forecasters said sustained winds dropped slightly to 130 miles per hour but restrengthening is expected to begin later today, with the storm likely to make landfall along the North or SC coast by Thursday.
The storm threatened to hit coastal North and SC with 130 mile-per-hour (215 kph) winds and massive waves when it makes landfall on Friday, and its rains will take a heavy toll for miles inland, the National Hurricane Center in Miami warned.
Nasa said the storm, now brewing above the Atlantic Ocean, had weakened to Category 1 strength, but is expected to strengthen into a Category 3 hurricane by the time it makes landfall on the USA mainland. Hurricane Watches have been issued for the entire North Carolina coast with Tropical Storm Watches in effect for those along the I-95 corridor.
The governor of neighbouring North Carolina also ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks, barrier islands that are a popular tourist destination, and parts of coastal Dare County, while a state of emergency was declared in Virginia. And with little wind shear to pull the storm apart, Florence's hurricane wind field was expected to expand over the coming days, increasing its storm surge and inland wind threats. Seven-day rainfall totals are forecast to reach 10 to 20 inches over much of North Carolina and Virginia, and even 30 inches in some places.
"You're going to get heavy rain, catastrophic life-threatening storm surge and also the winds". "If you are given an evacuation order, please comply immediately before roads get clogged and chaos commences".
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However, the Washington Post noted that the hurricane's exact placement is "within a large cone of uncertainty" and residents anywhere "Florida to southern New England" should be aware of the storm's progression.
A big worry with Florence is that the system could linger for days, similar to the manner in whch Harvey hovered over Texas previous year.
A ideal storm of unfortunate circumstances mean Florence could deal a devastating blow to the Southeast. Storms become a hurricane when they reach 74 miles per hour.
Hurricane Florence is picking up steam as it approaches the strength of a Category 5 storm. While those areas will experience major flooding, the more rural and mountainous areas to the west should be spared extreme rainfall. The crew gathers information on wind speeds, wind direction, pressure, temperature and humidity to help NOAA make more accurate forecasts of the storm's intensity and path.
Delta Air Lines travel to, from, or through cities in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Savannah, Georgia through September 16 can be rebooked for free by September 20.
The worst damage will occur to the north of where the hurricane makes landfall.