Florence could reach Category 5 strength Tuesday; NC prepares

Hurricane Florence tracker

Large swells are expected to pound Bermuda and the U.S.'s East Coast.

The storm's center was 750 miles southeast of Bermuda at 11 a.m. EDT on Sunday. The storm was centered about 765 miles (1,235 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda and moving west at 6 mph (9 kph).

Gov. Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency for North Carolina Friday, and Sunday his office sent out a news release urging residents to start taking precautions. Major hurricanes are those reaching Category 3 or higher, meaning sustained winds of at least 111 miles per hour.

Florence rapidly intensified into a fearsome category 3 hurricane Monday and could strike a direct and unsafe blow to the Carolinas later this week, possibly as a category 4, forecasters said. The storm is moving west at 5 miles per hour. The storm could impact anywhere from northern Florida to north of the Washington, D.C., area, producing life-threatening conditions.

Virginia has declared a state of emergency Saturday in anticipation of Tropical Storm Florence and its potential impact, according to a statement from Gov. Ralph Northam.

Unsafe swells generated by Florence were expected to batter Bermuda early in the week, as well as parts of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. The storm is expected to take a track that will move west-southwest and eventually curve toward a possible landfall in North or SC.

Navy ships off Virginia's coast were preparing to sail out of the path, a North Carolina university has already canceled classes and people have begun stocking up on plywood, bottled water and other supplies.

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The massive hurricane poses a serious threat as it barrels toward a landfall somewhere along the East Coast on Thursday.

In addition, in the Pacific, what's now Hurricane Olivia is forecast to approach Hawaii as a tropical storm on Tuesday.

"Those are the benchmark storms on the Carolina coastline, strong Category 4 hurricanes, but the difference with this is it's not going to move fast". Gradual strengthening is forecast and Florence could become a hurricane again over the weekend.

Category 1 hurricane Florence gained strength on Sunday in the central Atlantic and is expected to turn into a major storm by Monday night as it churns over the open ocean and heads toward the U.S. East Coast, the U.S. hurricane agency said.

It's still uncertain whether Hurricane Olivia will make landfall in the Hawaiian Islands, but at minimum meteorologists believe it will come very close and deliver a new round of rainfall.

Hours before Isaac became a hurricane, Helene strengthened into one. Its winds weakened Thursday when it returned to tropical storm status. It is expected to approach the Hawaiian Islands as a tropical storm by early next week, becoming the third tropical weather system to affect the islands this year.

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