Florence strengthens to hurricane, continues trek toward southeast U.S.

Tropical Depression Six becomes Tropical Storm Florence

North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia have declared states of emergency as a result of possible impacts from the storm. The storm is expected to strengthen into a major hurricane as it slowly moves toward the U.S.by late next week.

Hurricane Florence is plowing toward the East Coast as a Category 4 storm with a 500-mile wing span, forcing dire warnings and mandatory evacuations - including the entire coastline of SC and parts of Virginia and North Carolina.

As Tropical Storm Florence heads toward the USA coast, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency on Saturday.

Unsafe swells generated by Florence were expected to batter Bermuda early in the week, as well as parts of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. By Monday morning, the hurricane center classified Florence as a "major" Category 3 hurricane, with sustained winds of at least 111 miles per hour.

This enhanced satellite image made available by NOAA shows Tropical Storm Florence, third from right, in the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 at 3 p.m. EDT. The wind field is expected to keep growing, which will increase the storm surge and inland wind threats, the service said in a statement. 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. "There's just a really strong ridge building over the top of Florence that is going to drive it westward and also give it a remarkably favorable environment for strengthening". Monday is the climatological peak date of hurricane season, the height of the eight-week period when the most powerful storms usually form, CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri said.

"Our emergency operations center will start up early next week", Knox said, "Because we know that a storm of potentially this size, and potentially of this impact, we as a state need to be in place, on the ground, and ready to help the people of North Carolina". The South Carolina governor ordered the states entire coastline to be evacuated starting at noon Tuesday and predicted that 1 million people would flee. The state Emergency Management Division said residents should begin preparing their homes and property for the storm.

AccuWeather meteorologist Brett Rossi said the ground in North and SC and Virginia is already saturated from recent rains.

Generators, bottled water and snacks were flying off the shelves of area retailers over the weekend as forecasts called for higher chances that Hurricane Florence could hit the area.

In southeast Virginia, Naval Station Norfolk told not to leave their vehicles at the sprawling base later this week because of the flood threat.

Meteorologist Eric Holthaus warned on Twitter that it could become one of the worst storms in USA history. The Navy planned to send ships from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia out to sea.

Helene is still a Tropical Storm.

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