Florence approaches USA, set to become 'extremely dangerous' storm

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Hurricane Florence forecasts are increasingly pointing towards the possibility of a landfall somewhere on the US east coast, with model spread now indicating anywhere the Carolina's as the likely landfall spot, while intensity guidance still shows Florence regaining major hurricane status.

Florence crossed the 74 miles per hour threshold from tropical storm to a hurricane Sunday morning, and by evening its winds were up to 85 miles per hour (140 kph) as the National Hurricane Center warned a hurricane hunter plane found the storm strengthening quickly.

Computer-model forecasts generally project the storm to make landfall between northern SC and North Carolina's Outer Banks as a Category 4 on Thursday, although shifts in the track are possible and storm impacts will expand great distances beyond where landfall occurs. Since reliable record-keeping began more than 150 years ago, North Carolina has only been hit by one Category 4 hurricane: Hazel, with 130 miles per hour winds in 1954.

The compact storm, with hurricane winds extending just 10 miles from the center, was located more than 1,150 miles east of the Windward Islands Monday morning, with sustained winds of 75 mph. But it is now entering a warmer zone, meteorologists said.

Florence is heading towards Virginia and the Carolinas, where a state of emergency has been declared, and Helene appears to be heading north, well away from land.

Heavy rain and potential flooding and mudslides are a growing concern, more so than winds. As the storm approaches, President Donald Trump on Monday approved a state of emergency for North Carolina.

The strength and orientation of an area of high pressure over the western Atlantic will be key to Florence's movement this week. "I plan to do most of my cooking on the grill".

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The Category 1 hurricane remained 580 miles northeast of the northern Leeward Islands, which include Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the center said.

Because the storm is so small, forecasters are less certain about how intense Isaac may become. For the most likely arrival time for Tropical Storm force winds accompanying the storm, view the third image above.

It warned people at the coast and inland from SC to the mid-Atlantic region to monitor the storm's progress closely and ensure they have a hurricane plan in place. People rushed to get emergency kits ready, map out escape routes and fill sandbags and secure their homes.

"We are preparing for the worst, and of course hoping for the best", South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said, adding that his declaration would allow state agencies to deploy assets quickly to the coast.

Myrtle Beach hardware stores and supermarkets were busy ringing up sales of bottled water, plywood and generators. "We know we can't play around with this", said Jennifer Oosterwyk, who owns the Sugar Britches boutique on Holden Beach and lives in nearby Wilmington. The university said Sunday that it has issued a voluntary evacuation for students starting at midday Monday, noting classes would be cancelled.

The US navy has ordered ships at its major base in Hampton Roads, Virginia, base to put to sea, saying "the forecasted destructive winds and tidal surge are too great to keep the ships in port".

Florida-based Carnival Cruise Line re-routed its cruise ships.