Hurricane Florence strengthened "rapidly" on Monday, September 10, and is now a powerful Category 4 hurricane, U.S. forecasters said, as governors of 3 eastern USA states declared an emergency and told residents to prepare for the storm.
The Atlantic hurricane's maximum sustained winds have increased to almost 130 miles per hour (195 kilometers per hour), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in an advisory issued at noon Eastern Time (1600 GMT).
According to the National Hurricane Center's 5:00 p.m. advisory, the center of Tropical Storm Isaac was located near latitude 14.5 North, longitude 40.3 West. Isaac is moving toward the west near 12 mph (19 km/h) and is expected to accelerate during the next 36 hours.
Adm. Christopher Grady said the decision was based on Florence's current track, which indicates the area could see strong sustained winds and storm surges. The storm is expected to take a track that will move west-southwest and eventually curve toward a possible landfall in North or SC.
Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Saturday as communities up and down the East Coast monitor Tropical Storm Florence. The state's emergency management agency said it is "preparing for the possibility of a large-scale disaster".
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said Sunday he was asking President Donald Trump for a federal emergency declaration in anticipation of "significant impacts not only on our state but the entire east coast".
In coastal Charleston, city officials offered sandbags to residents.
SC Hurricane Florence South Carolina Still In Danger Zone System stalks east coast
He estimated about 1 million residents would flee the coast of his state, following earlier orders for the evacuation of more than 50,000 people from the southern-most Outer Banks barrier islands of North Carolina.
Officials in North Carolina were already bracing for impact.
Myrtle Beach hardware stores and supermarkets were busy ringing up sales of bottled water, plywood and generators.
"Literally, they are filling buggies full of water, shopping carts full of water", Ryan Deeck, grocery department manager at a Walmart, told The Sun News.
The University of North Carolina at Wilmington, near the shore, canceled its upcoming alumni weekend and all classes starting at noon Monday, encouraging its students to leave campus for a safer location. It is expected to accelerate during the next 36 hours and head into the eastern Caribbean Sea by Thursday.
A third storm, Helene, off the Cabo Verde Islands was expected to become a hurricane later on Sunday.
Florence has been moving more toward the west and slightly northwest, potentially making direct landfall coming in from the east.
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