Florence turned into a hurricane Sunday morning and was swirling toward the U.S. The National Hurricane Center says it's too early to predict the storm's exact path but that a huge coastal area from SC to the mid-Atlantic region should prepare for a major strike late in the week.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Isaac, with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph) on Sunday, was about 1,500 miles east of the Windward Islands, forecasters said.
PETERSBURG Two hurricanes are active in the Atlantic Ocean, according to the National Hurricane Center.
But Hurricane Center officials warned that anyone in coastal and inland locations from SC to the mid-Atlantic region should "closely monitor the progress of Florence, ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place, and follow any advice given by local officials". McMaster emphasized that there's no way to know yet when and where the storm will hit land, or when evacuations might be called.
Forecasters predicted it would become a unsafe Category 4 storm before a possible landfall Friday.
"Experience has shown us that storms and heavy wind and rain can affect the entire state, so we must all be alert and ready", he said in a news release on Sunday.
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Cooper said state emergency management officials are working with local and federal agencies to prepare North Carolina for possible impacts from Florence.
The news release notes that plans could change if forecasts indicate a decrease in the strength or change in the track of the storm.
"This storm is too powerful and its path is too uncertain to take any chances", South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said in issuing his state's emergency declaration. Tropical Storm Helene was expected to reach the Cabo Verde islands on Saturday but is predicted to miss the mainland U.S.
Storm surge is the abnormal rise of water generated by a storm's winds.
Previous hurricanes, including Matthew and 1999's Floyd, which drowned large swathes of Eastern North Carolina, brought torrential rain or even stalled out over areas causing massive flooding, bridge and road washouts and long power outages. This flooding can persist for several days after a storm has dissipated. The effects from damaging wind/surge/rainfall/etc. can be felt hundreds of miles away from the center of the storm.
The other storms Tropical Storm Isaac and Tropical Storm Helene are both expected to become hurricanes Sunday or Monday.
Risky waves produced by a tropical cyclone's strong winds can pose a significant hazard to coastal residents and mariners. This is just shy of a category 5 storm which requires wind speeds of 155 miles per hour or greater.
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