Intensifying Hurricane Florence could strike U.S. Southeast

Intensifying Hurricane Florence could strike U.S. Southeast

Hurricane Florence was intensifying on its path toward the East Coast on Monday when it became a Category 4 storm with 130 miles per hour winds, according to the National Hurricane Center. By noon EDT (1600 GMT) on Monday, Florence was about 1,170 miles (1,880 km) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, and was a Category 4, the second-strongest on the Saffir-Simpson scale, the NHC said.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's office described Florence as possibly the state's "most significant hurricane event in decades", and warned of "catastrophic inland flooding, high winds and possible widespread power outages".

The official forecast provided by the National Hurricane Center indicates the storm could be just shy of a catastrophic category 5 hurricane by Tuesday afternoon with winds of 155 miles per hour.

The hurricane, which strengthened to a Category 4 on Monday, is expected to intensify as it approaches the Carolinas, said John Quagliariello with the National Weather Service.

Hurricane Helene is in the far eastern Atlantic Ocean and not expected to be near any land.

"Data from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased near 140 miles per hour (220 km/h) with higher gusts".

"You see the eye of the storm but you also see this darker red color", explained FOX 13's meteorologist Dave Osterberg, pointing to the enhanced satellite image. But forecasters say residents should still beware of the chance for unsafe flooding and wind.

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North Carolina has ordered the evacuation of more than 50,000 people.

Two other storms were spinning in the Atlantic.

Navy ships off Virginia's coast are getting ready to sail out of the path of the powerful hurricane and one North Carolina university has cancelled classes. Still, the storm would produce flooding rains across a large part of the U.S. South, expanding the damage, according to Enki Research's Watson. "Damaging hurricane-force winds are likely along portions of the coasts of SC and North Carolina, and a Hurricane Watch will likely be issued by Tuesday morning".

The Associated Press reports Governor McMaster saying "storm surge could reach as high as 10 feet" and estimated that 1 million residents would evacuate from coastal areas.

Up and down the densely populated coast, residents have been told to prepare, and not just for a possible direct blow.

In North Carolina, more than 200 Guard personnel have been placed on state active duty and are integrating into the North Carolina Emergency Management disaster response plan, Houk said. Earlier Monday, coastal communities in North Carolina ordered evacuations, and SC ordered evacuations for its entire coastline.

Hurricane Isaac - which late Sunday became the fifth hurricane of the season - is heading west towards the Caribbean.

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