National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham warned that Florence was forecast to linger over the Carolinas once it reaches shore.
SOUTHEASTERN N.C. - The National Hurricane Center announced at 5 p.m. Monday it could begin issuing hurricane and storm surge watches as soon as Tuesday morning. And the timing couldn't be more apt: Monday was the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, when storm activity has historically been at its highest. If the GFS model turns out to be the storm's correct path, the coast will be the most impacted area.
The storm is on track to hit the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic region as early as Thursday, according to the hurricane centre.
As of Sunday night, the hurricane was centered in southeast Bermuda and moving west at 7 miles per hour.
The National Hurricane Center said Florence was expected to slam into the coast around North and SC as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane on Thursday or Friday. The evacuation zone includes the most flood-prone coastal areas, Northam said.
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Once the storm makes landfall, McMaster said, it's expected to move slowly, dumping extreme amounts of rain likely to cause flooding.
"If the track were to shift more westward, that would put Charlotte at more risk for both wind and flooding", he said, possibly including heavy rain in the headwaters of the Catawba River, which flows toward Charlotte. Landfall may be Thurs.
Hurricane Florence rapidly formed into a powerful Category 4 storm Monday as it churned towards the U.S. East Coast.
The center expects the biggest threats from Florence to be "life-threatening surf and rip current conditions".
An animation of GOES-16 weather satellite imagery shows Florence strengthening from a tropical storm into a Category 1 hurricane at 15 UTC on Sunday, September 9, 2018.
There are also four other named storms and the potential for a fifth to develop.
Meteorologist Chad Meyers told viewers that "this storm gets stronger and stronger" as it approaches the Carolinas, and this coming weekend could be a disastrous one for millions of residents.
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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. Hurricane Isaac and Helene can be seen to the east of Florence.
Florence grew into a major hurricane on Monday morning and was upgraded again to a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength at midday as its top sustained wind speeds reached 130 miles per hour.
The hurricane could remain powerful as it passes over the U.S. mainland, the NHC warned on Monday morning.
He said: "It's pushing its way forward, but Thursday morning it is just off the coast".
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