Hurricane Florence strengthened "rapidly" on Monday, September 10, and is now a powerful Category 4 hurricane, USA forecasters said, as governors of 3 eastern U.S. states declared an emergency and told residents to prepare for the storm.
The National Hurricane Center's 5 p.m. advisory showed the storm was over 720 miles southeast of Bermuda and was likely to intensify to a major Category 4 hurricane as it travels west across the warm Atlantic waters.
While the surf height at local beaches is estimated at just 3 feet Monday, the risk for life-threatening rip currents in the surf zone remains high.
The National Hurricane Center warns that Florence could soon cause a coastal surge that includes flooding before the storm is projected for US landfall (probably) on Thursday.
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.
On Saturday, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the storm.
If the center of the hurricane does come ashore in the Wilmington area, some of the strongest winds and rain could strike the sprawling Marine base since much of the worst weather will be in the northeast quadrant of the storm.
It had maximum winds of 85mph with higher gusts, with tropical storm force winds extending up to 125 miles from the storms centre.
The storm has 115 mph winds and is located 580 miles south-southeast of Bermuda and is moving west at 13 mph.
US President Donald Trump, whose administration faced severe criticism for a slow response in Puerto Rico to Hurricane Maria, cancelled a political rally planned for Friday in Jackson, Mississippi, over safety concerns related to Florence, his campaign said. Further out in the Atlantic, two storms - Helene and Isaac - gained hurricane force on Sunday.
A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere in the warning area within 36 hours, and a watch within 48 hours.
In North Carolina, officials already had ordered some 250,000 residents and visitors to begin evacuating the Outer Banks barrier islands.
North and SC and Virginia have all declared states of emergency in anticipation of Hurricane Florence.
Cooper said that Florence is a threat far beyond the coast.
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.