Florence regained hurricane strength again Sunday and the massive storm could menace the East Coast later this week.
Florence strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane Monday and continued its slow but angry dance toward the U.S. East Coast as residents braced for the worst.
The National Hurricane Center said the storm was expected to continuing growing in strength through the day. The center of Florence was forecast to sweep between Bermuda and the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday before making its assault on the southeast coast, now targeting North and South Carolina, sometime Thursday.
“Florence is forecast to become a major hurricane this morning, and is expected to remain an extremely dangerous major hurricane through Thursday,” the hurricane center warned.
The hurricane center warned that the swells are likely to cause “life-threatening” surf and current conditions. On North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Dare County emergency officials warned that rough seas and strong rip currents are already creating dangerous conditions.
“Red, no swimming flags are flying and everyone must stay out of the water,” Dare County Emergency Management Director Drew Pearson said.
Satellite imagery indicated that the maximum sustained winds have increased to near 105 mp with higher gusts. A “major” hurricane is one with sustained winds of more than 110 mph.
AccuWeather meteorologist Brett Rossi said the ground in North and South Carolina and Virginia is already saturated from recent rains. Rivers are high, and the storm will be moving slowly when it arrives, exacerbating the situation, Rossi told
“This is very scary rain event potentially setting up this week,” Rossi said. “Florence could dump a foot of rain in places that cannot handle it, making for a very scary flooding situation in some areas.”
The National Hurricane Center’s breakdown of storm strength says Category 3 storms can bring “devastating” destruction. Homes can be damaged, trees uprooted and electricity and water can be knocked out for days or weeks, the center warns.
The Navy said all ships in Virginia’s coastal Hampton Roads area were preparing to leave port for open seas Monday. Admiral Christopher Grady said ships can better weather “storms of this magnitude when they are underway.”
South Carolina emergency management officials said they were “preparing for the possibility of a large-scale disaster.”
Virginia joined North and South Carolina in declaring a state of emergency ahead of the storm. Gov. Ralph Northam said the Virginia National Guard, the Virginia State Police and other state agencies have already begun preparations.
Because of the uncertainty of the storm’s track, Northam encouraged all state residents to prepare for the storm. Florence could bring significant flooding along the coast all the way to rivers and streams in the western part of the state, he said.
“I encourage Virginians to monitor forecasts and make their own preparations now,” Northam said.
All three governors urged residents to assemble emergency kits including food, water, medications, pet supplies and important documents that might be needed if evacuations are necessary.
“Now is the time for your family also to prepare and stay tuned for more updates,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said. “Plan for the worst, pray for the best.”