Florence set to become major hurricane, aims at US Southeast


A total of nine storms have developed so far this season, with four hurricanes and one major hurricane.

WILMINGTON, North Carolina (CNN) - As Hurricane Florence approaches the East Coast of the United States, the governors of Virginia, North and SC have issued mandatory evacuation orders affecting hundreds of thousands of residents in coastal areas.

"We are in the bull's-eye", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said at a news conference.

Smithfield Foods Inc., the No. 1 hog producer, and chicken producer Sanderson Farms Inc. saw their North Carolina operations disrupted in 2016 due to flooding from Hurricane Matthew.

Isaac, previously a tropical storm, strengthened to become the fifth hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic season, the NHC said.

In 1989, Hurricane Hugo grew to a Category 4 storm before coming ashore near Charleston, South Carolina, where it caused about $14.1 billion in damage when adjusted for inflation, making it the 13th costliest US storm, according to Hurricane Center records. The hurricane center cited data from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft that showed Florence was rapidly intensifying, with maximum sustained winds near 140 miles per hour.

Florence's effects were already being felt along the coast, with unsafe swells and rip currents in some spots. The center said the powerful waves are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

Still, it remains unclear where Florence will make landfall, and, therefore, which areas will feel the worst impact.

"It's too early at this point to be precise with how these impacts are going to stack up", he said, "but there is a huge potential someone is going to sustain devastating impacts as a result of this storm".

A warm ocean is the fuel that powers hurricanes, and Florence will be moving over waters where temperatures are peaking near 85 degrees (30 Celsius), hurricane specialist Eric Blake wrote.

Officials along North Carolina's coast are issuing a mandatory evacuation order for all visitors and residents on Hatteras Island as Hurricane Florence moves closer to the East Coast.

North Carolina ordered residents to evacuate the state's Outer Banks barrier islands, and the governors of Virginia, North Carolina and SC declared states of emergency.

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The National Weather Service upgraded Florence to a Category 3 storm in its 11 a.m. update. It is now located about 625 miles southeast of Bermuda, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in a 5 a.m. A turn toward the northwest is forecast to occur late Wednesday night.

Florence turned into a hurricane Sunday morning and was swirling toward the US for what forecasters said could be a direct hit on the Southeast toward the end of the week. Once winds reach 111 miles per hour, it will be a category 3 (major) hurricane.

"Florence is. expected to remain an extremely risky major hurricane through Thursday", the hurricane center warned.

Computer models on Sunday will give a much better picture of Florence's likely path, Walsh said. The storm will slowly weaken over the next few days.

It is expected to pickup speed, moving between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday and could make landfall possibly as a Category 3 or higher on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, forecasters said.

At 5 p.m., the center of Hurricane Isaac was located near latitude 14.4 North, longitude 45.0 West. The storm is 1,305 miles east of the Windward Islands. Isaac's forward movement was accelerating on a path to cross into the lower Caribbean on Thursday.

Additional strengthening is expected over the next day or two.

Carney said in a statement Sunday that while it's too early to tell what impact DE will experience, residents should begin taking steps to prepare and monitoring local forecasts.

Florence is moving west at under 10 miles per hour.

Florence became a hurricane again once winds reached 74 miles per hour.

Steady weakening is forecast to begin by late Tuesday. The estimated minimum central pressure is 974 mb (28.77 inches).