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Florence strengthens to Category 4 storm

Intensifying Hurricane Florence could strike US Southeast
Hurricane Florence.jpg
Posted at 12:20 PM, Sep 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-10 08:23:40-04

ATLANTA (AP) - The Latest on Hurricanes Florence and Isaac (all times local):

12:10 p.m.

Florence has become even stronger over the Atlantic Ocean.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say Florence rapidly intensified Monday morning to a potentially catastrophic Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 130 mph (195 kph).

Florence had reached Category 3 strength earlier Monday, but data from hurricane hunter aircraft indicate the storm is quickly getting stronger as it moves over warm Atlantic waters.

Forecasters say the hurricane's strength is expected to fluctuate but it still will be a dangerous storm by the time it reaches the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday.

As of noon EDT, Florence was centered about 575 miles (925 kilometers) south-southeast of Bermuda, moving west at 13 mph (20 kph).

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11 a.m.

The U.S. Navy is sending nearly 30 of its Virginia-based ships out to sea as Hurricane Florence barrels toward the Atlantic Coast.

Navy spokeswoman Alana Garas said the ships will disembark Monday from naval bases including the world's largest in Norfolk. The ships will head to portions of the Atlantic where they can avoid the storm.

Some ships will stay behind because they're undergoing maintenance and may be tied down with additional mooring and storm lines.

Meanwhile, naval bases near Virginia's coast are also sandbagging flood prone areas and topping off fuel generators.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center have said Florence is expected to be an extremely dangerous storm by the time it nears the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday.


Rapidly intensifying Hurricane Florence could strike a direct and dangerous blow anywhere from the Carolinas to the Mid-Atlantic region later this week.

Florence crossed the 74 mph threshold from tropical storm to a hurricane Sunday morning, and by evening its winds were up to 85 mph (140 kph) as the National Hurricane Center warned a hurricane hunter plane found the storm strengthening quickly. Forecasters said Florence was expected to become an extremely dangerous major hurricane sometime Monday and remain that way for days.

As of 11 p.m. EDT, Florence was centered about 685 miles (1,100 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda, moving west at 7 mph (11 kmh). Its maximum sustained winds are at 90 mph (150 kmh). Drawing energy from the warm water, it could be a fearsome Category 4 with winds of 130 mph (209 kph) or more by Tuesday, the Miami-based center said.

The center also said that Hurricane Isaac has become the 5th named hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic season.

Isaac was about 1305 miles (2100 kilometers) east of the Windward Islands with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kmh) late Sunday. The storm was moving west at 14 mph (22 kmh) and expected to accelerate over the next 36 hours. It poses no threat to land at the time, the center said.

Forecasters said it is too early to know the exact path Florence will take but warned that it could roll ashore in the Carolinas by Thursday. But authorities were taking no chances as the governors of North and South Carolina and Virginia declared states of emergency far ahead of the approaching storm.

Navy ships off Virginia's coast are getting set to sail out of the path of the powerful hurricane, one North Carolina university has canceled classes and people have begun stocking up on plywood, bottled water and other supplies even with Florence still far out at sea southeast of Bermuda.

People up and down the densely populated coast were told to be ready for the worst - and not just for a possible direct blow against the coast. They warned that Florence could slow or stall on or near shore, with some forecasting models showing it could unload a foot or two of rain in places, causing devastating inland flooding. Forecasters also warned of a rising threat of life-threatening storm surge, along with the damage of a hurricane's high winds.

Red flags flying on beaches warned swimmers to stay out of waters as seas began kicking up. People rushed to get emergency kits ready, map out escape routes and fill sandbags and secure their homes.

"Pretend, assume, presume that a major hurricane is going to hit right smack dab in the middle of South Carolina and is going to go way inshore," South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said. The state's emergency management agency said it is "preparing for the possibility of a large-scale disaster."

In Charleston, South Carolina, along the coast, city officials offered sandbags to residents. Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune urged people to secure their homes but said it was too early to know if evacuations will be ordered.

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. "They're coming in and buying water and plates, and that's about all they're buying."

North Carolina officials started getting bulldozers and chain saws ready.

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. Ilija Cesal told the newspaper he wouldn't worry about buying extra water or other supplies for a few more days.

"I'll see by Wednesday how that goes - we got over 48 hours before that happens," Cesal said.

As Hurricane Florence approaches the East Coast, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington canceled classes and encouraged its students to leave campus for a safer location.

In southeast Virginia, Naval Station Norfolk told its employees they should not leave their vehicles parked at the sprawling base in coming days because of the flood threat. The Navy planned to send ships from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia out to sea.

Florida-based Carnival Cruise Line re-routed its cruise ships.