Hurricane Florence strengthens to Category 2 storm

Two tropical depressions in Atlantic Article by Barbados Today Published on September 8, 2018

- Florence is now a hurricane and forecasters say it could hit the U.S. East Coast as a powerful hurricane next week.

The National Hurricane Center issued an alert Monday that there was "an increasing risk of life-threatening impacts from Florence, storm surge at the coast and freshwater flooding inland from prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall", according to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

Florence rapidly strengthened into a potentially catastrophic Category 4 hurricane on Monday as it closed in on North and SC, carrying winds and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week.

By noon EDT Monday, Florence was centered about 1,230 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, and moving west at 13 mph.

Forecasters say that storm was about 1230 miles (1985 kilometers) east of the Windward Islands with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kmh). Such swells can lead to unsafe surf and rip currents, the NHC warned.

It warned the storm would be "an extremely risky major hurricane" by the time it made landfall, forecast in the Carolinas on Thursday.

SC ordered an estimated one million people to evacuate its coast today as the state and neighbouring North Carolina brace for Hurricane Florence.

Meanwhile, the two other tropical storms in the Atlantic - Florence and Helen - are expected to become hurricanes today. According to aircraft data, its maximum sustained winds have increased to near 90 miles per hour.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Isaac is holding steady in strength over the Atlantic as it heads westward. North Carolina has only been hit by around a dozen less severe Category 3 storms since 1850, with the newly-upgraded hurricane now predicted to cause never before-seen levels of devastation when it arrives later this week. But the large storm's tropical storm-force winds could start to reach the coast of the Carolinas as early as Wednesday night, the National Hurricane Center said.

Though no coastal advisories are yet in place, the update said that those warnings would likely be forthcoming.

"We are in the bull's eye", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said at a news conference. North Carolina Highway Patrol Sgt. Chris Knox told NPR that North Carolina residents needed to prepare: "When we put those orders out, when we tell people 'this is a flood-prone area, ' that you need to find somewhere else to go, don't roll the dice".

"Isaac is a small hurricane and uncertainty in the forecast is greater than normal", the National Hurricane Center reported Monday at 11 a.m.

Preparations for Florence were intensifying up and down the densely populated coast.

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