Hurricane Florence strengthens to Category 2 storm

Here's what David Epstein is saying about Hurricane Florence

Here's what David Epstein is saying about Hurricane Florence

The storm became a hurricane Sunday and is expected to strengthen rapidly over the next few days as it heads toward the East Coast of the U.S.

In its 11 p.m. EDT advisory, the National Hurricane Center said "a rapid phase of intensification" was expected to begin Sunday.

The current forecast track predicts that Florence will approach the southeast US coast on Thursday. That means, she said, that the Wilmington region is going to be affected by what she said is going to be a major hurricane that could reach category 4 strength, which means maximum sustained winds of 130 to 156 miles per hour.

The storm's sustained winds reached 75 mph, just over the threshold for a hurricane, as it made its way across the Atlantic, about 750 miles southeast of Bermuda, the National Hurricane Center said.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster estimated about 1 million residents were under orders to evacuate the coast of his state.

Several meteorologists said Florence could do what Hurricane Harvey did over Texas, dumping days of rain, although not quite as bad.

The governors of North and SC and Virginia declared states of emergency far ahead of the approaching storm.

Most models point to at least a Category 3 hurricane Florence, with some suggesting a Category 4 storm. Florence now has maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour, and gusts up to 140 miles per hour, making it a major hurricane capable of doing "devastating" damage.

WILMINGTON - All eyes are on Hurricane Florence as the storm continues to strengthen with the Cape Fear Region in its sights.

"North Carolina is no stranger to hurricanes", Cooper said at a press briefing, noting that previous hurricanes - Matthew in 2016, Floyd in 1999 and Fran in 1996 - brought heavy wind and rain to the entire state.

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Heavy rain in the Washington area over the weekend had already led to flooding in historic Alexandria, Virginia, local media reported, and the National Weather Service issued a flood watch for part of the Potomac River.

The strength and orientation of an area of high pressure over the western Atlantic will be key to Florence's movement this week. Hugo in 1989 was the one before that and was a Category 4 at landfall.

Hurricane Isaac is a Category 1 storm and moving west toward the Caribbean.

In South Carolina, McMaster said that officials planned to help residents evacuate by reversing eastbound lanes of major roads such as Interstate 26 heading into Charleston and USA 501 heading into Myrtle Beach.

"The models have not been very good with intensity for this system pretty much for the entirety of the storm", Chipriano said. It will likely become a major hurricane within the next day or two. People rushed to get emergency kits ready, map out escape routes and fill sandbags and secure their homes. SC emergency management officials said they were "preparing for the possibility of a large-scale disaster".

"While it's still too early to know the storm's path, we know we have to be prepared", Gov. Cooper said. Whiteville's Lowes Home Improvement Store was doing a brisk business in plywood, duct tape, and generators Sunday afternoon.

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 was re-routing its cruise ships, but there were other hurricanes to contend with.

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