Hurricane Florence upgraded again, now Category 4 storm

Hurricane Florence tracker and spaghetti models

The U.S. East Coast could be hit with a powerful hurricane next week as Tropical Storm Florence continues to strengthen as it moves toward the mainland, forecasters said Saturday.

The latest forecast from the U.S. National Hurricane Center said, "Florence is moving toward the west near 9 miles per hour (14 km/h), and this general motion is expected to continue for the next couple days".

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper urged his state's residents to get ready, noting the storm was generating swelling waves and risky currents.

Florence, now a Category 1 hurricane, is expected to regain major hurricane status (Category 3 or higher) as it continues to track westward and enters a favorable environment for intensification early this week.

On its current track, the storm could make landfall around the Carolinas on Thursday or Friday.

The storm's center will approach the U.S. Southeast coast on Thursday after passing between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper's office said Florence is already being felt along the state's coast, with large sea swells resulting in life-threatening rip currents and surf. Advisories warning of risky beach conditions or coastal flooding were in effect for parts of New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

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By 5 p.m. Monday, Florence was centered about 1,170 miles (1,880 kilometers) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, and moving west at 13 mph (20 kph).

Florence became the first Category 4 hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic season last week, but later weakened due to a zone of strong wind shear and cooler waters. The favorable environmental conditions are expected along the path of this developing tropical cyclone and the system should become a hurricane during the early or middle part of next week.

Loewenthal said the waters off the North Carolina coast are in the mid-to-upper 80s, which would allow the storm to maintain its strength.

A National Hurricane Center graphic showing the potential track for Hurricane Florence, as of 11 a.m. The state Emergency Management Division said residents should begin preparing their homes and property for the storm.

Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Saturday as communities up and down the East Coast monitor Tropical Storm Florence.

Meanwhile, two other tropical storms have formed in the Atlantic Basin. Other major hurricanes that have made landfall on North Carolina have come up from the south toward the north and made landfall that way.

The Navy said all ships in Virginia's coastal Hampton Roads area were preparing to leave port for open seas.

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