Hurricane Florence takes aim at US Southeast

TROPICS: Florence to become a hurricane today; TD 9 strengthening

The storm's maximum sustained winds are 50 miles per hour (85 kph) and it is moving west at 8 miles per hour (13 kmh).

The storm could hit the southeastern USA coast by late this week as a Category 3 storm or higher, bringing life-threatening winds, flooding, and storm surge.

The Miami-based center defines a major hurricane as one with wind speed greater than 110 miles per hour.

The US-based National Hurricane Centre said: “Florence is forecast to rapidly strengthen to a major hurricane by Monday, and is expected to remain an extremely unsafe major hurricane through Thursday. According to the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center, Florence has strengthened back into a hurricane as it continues its jaunt west. A state of emergency was declared in sc and Virginia to give officials and residents enough time to prepare for Florence if it hits the area.

The storm could cause risky surf and rip currents along parts of the USA east coast across the weekend as it swirls across the Atlantic, followed by tropical depression Nine. Winds will begin hitting the Carolina coast 8 p.m. Wednesday and the middle of the two states by 8 a.m. Thursday, NOAA says.

Forecasters predicted it would become a risky Category 4 storm before a possible landfall Friday. The current forecast track brings Florence on approach to the southeast USA coast on Thursday as a major and powerful hurricane. "These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current onditions".

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Forecasters expect Florence to become a Category 3 storm again as early as Monday and predict it will continue to get stronger as it approaches the East Coast.

Virginia joined North and SC in declaring a state of emergency ahead of the storm, which is expected to be a major hurricane. An upgrade to OPCON3 would mean the storm poses a significant threat and emergency preparations would likely be put in place, under an OPCON2 order an evacuation order would be imminent and an OPCON1 act would mean an evacuation order is in effect, according to the release.

Authorities in Florida said they were closely monitoring the storm.

Florence predicted to strengthen into a category four hurricane as it approaches the East Coast of the United States. Storm surge and freshwater flooding from rainfall could become life-threatening risks, especially from SC through the mid-Atlantic.

State emergency management is working with counties across North Carolina along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the state's Emergency Response Team to prepare.

The three systems - Florence, Isaac and Helene - come right before the Atlantic hurricane season hits its peak Monday.

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