Hurricane Florence Strengthens, Poses Major Threat to Southeast and Mid-Atlantic

Hurricane Florence Strengthens, Poses Major Threat to Southeast and Mid-Atlantic

"On the forecast track, the center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday and approach the southeastern coast of the United States on Thursday", the NHC said Sunday.

Isaac was about 1305 miles (2100 kilometers) east of the Windward Islands with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kmh) late Sunday.

Cooper said the decision to put evacuation orders in place will be left up to local officials, who best know their communities and residents, but predicted that evacuation orders will likely be issued along the coast in the coming days.

McMaster said he had asked President Donald Trump to declare a federal emergency in SC in anticipation of the storm's arrival.

By 11 p.m. Sunday, Florence was moving across the Atlantic Ocean at about 7 miles per hour, and it was almost a Category 2 hurricane, with peak winds of 90 miles per hour.

Red flags flying on beaches warned swimmers to stay out of waters already roiled by the distant storm, and cruise ships and Navy vessels were set to be steered out of harm's way.

Myrtle Beach hardware stores and supermarkets were busy ringing up sales of bottled water, plywood and generators.

The governors of North and SC and Virginia have already declared states of emergency, but winds and flooding caused by Florence could do serious damage even if it remains offshore. "They're coming in and buying water and plates, and that's about all they're buying".

Cooper said officials will hold a briefing on storm preparations at 11 a.m. Monday, but urged residents on Sunday to familiarize themselves with evacuation routes and have a plan for pets if the storm hits.

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North Carolina officials started getting bulldozers and chain saws ready.

- Florence is continuing to strengthen in the Atlantic as it heads towards the North Carolina coast.

Florence's effects were already being felt along the coast, with risky swells and rip currents in some spots.

In Jacksonville, North Carolina, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the coast, some residents picked up hurricane supplies during their normal weekend shopping, The Daily News reported.

"We haven't seen anything like that approaching the coast, assuming this is close to being correct, since Hazel", WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.

The station, the largest naval complex in the world, said in a Facebook post that much of the base is prone to heavy flooding, especially the parking lots adjacent to the waterfront.

"The National Hurricane Center says Florence could make landfall by Friday in the Southeast U.S. and that residents from SC to the mid-Atlantic need to get ready".

The National Hurricane Center says it is still too early to predict the hurricane's exact path, but a huge coastal area from northern Florida to North Carolina should prepare for a major hit.

Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia.

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