Florence Bears Down on East Coast as 'Potentially Catastrophic' Major Hurricane

Florence becomes a hurricane as it barrels toward the U.S

An enhanced satellite image shows Hurricane Florence center in the Atlantic Ocean

The center said the powerful waves are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions. Virginia, North Carolina, and SC have all declared states of emergency.

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.

Cooper and state emergency management officials held a media briefing about the state's preparation for Hurricane Florence, which strengthened to a category 4 storm.

"Data from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter indicate that Florence has continued to rapidly strengthen and has maximum sustained winds near 130 miles per hour", the National Hurricane Center tweeted around 11:30 a.m. He described the storm as "extremely large and unsafe".

The National Hurricane Center is advising people in the hurricane's path to prepare for potentially life-threatening storm surges, freshwater flooding and damaging winds as Florence impacts the U.S. this week. Governors from all three states warned their residents to prepare now for the storm.

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Florence has intensified to a Category 2 hurricane overnight, according to the National Weather Service, and is expected to reach major hurricane status later today.

AccuWeather meteorologist Brett Rossi said the ground in North and SC and Virginia is already saturated from recent rains. But current models show it striking the East Coast anywhere between Florida and Washington D.C. The famed vacation destination of Hilton Head, South Carolina is also in the storm's likely path.

"Florence has continued to rapidly strengthen", the NHC said at 1500 GMT.

Crystal Kirwan didn't see she had much choice as she got her family ready to leave their home Monday on the coast of North Carolina, with Category 4 Hurricane Florence threatening the state.

The governors of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia declared states of emergency far ahead of the approaching storm. Residents in its path are being warned to gather supplies or evacuate, the Weather Channel reported.

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The National Hurricane Center said Monday that Hurricane Florence is now a Category 4 storm and continuing to intensify. Over the next 36 hours, Florence's winds could reach 150 mph, the hurricane center says.

The US Navy added that it was sending almost 30 ships from Virginia to sea in order to avoid damage.

"Folks, if you are in the Carolinas or Virginia - this is a historic storm", declared Eric Holthaus, meteorologist and journalist who writes about extreme weather and climate change for Grist. The hurricane is registering maximum sustained winds near 130 miles per hour.

Meanwhile, forecasters urged residents to complete such storm preparations by the end of Wednesday, saying some impacts from Florence were nearly a certainty by Thursday. Most other reports are using the word "catastrophic", in keeping with how the National Hurricane Center describes a Category 4 hurricane: "catastrophic damage will occur". Two other storms also are churning in the Atlantic.

The largest U.S. Marine Corps base on the East Coast, Camp Lejeune and its extensive beachfront northeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, lie within the NHC's forecast "cone" for possible landfall.

Risky storms are also threatening parts of the U.S.in the Pacific Ocean.

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Hurricanes have a life cycle, moving from tropical storm to full-on hurricane. But forecasters say residents should still beware of the chance for risky flooding and wind.

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