Florence to grow into 'major hurricane' on path toward US East Coast

Florence strengthened into a hurricane again Sunday as forecasters warned the menacing storm could deliver a brutal hit along the East Coast by the end of the week. Virginia has joined North and South Carolina in declaring a state of emergency ahead of

Florence has maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour and is expected to continue growing as it heads toward the US East Coast.

Another "life-threatening impact" from Florence could be freshwater flooding from prolonged heavy rainfall inland, the center said.

NHC officials say further strengthening is anticipated, and Florence is expected to be an extremely risky major hurricane through Thursday.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper urged his state's residents to get ready, noting the storm was generating swelling waves and risky currents.

USA landfall could come Friday between Charleston, South Carolina and Norfolk, Virginia, the Hurricane Center said.

The governors of SC and Virginia declared states of emergency on Saturday.

Swells generated by Florence were already affecting Bermuda and portions of the US East Coast, the Miami-based forecasters said.

As of 11 p.m. EDT, Florence was centered about 685 miles (1,100 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda, moving west at 7 mph (11 kmh).

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"We are preparing for the worst, and of course hoping for the best", South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said.

"North Carolina is no stranger to hurricanes", Cooper said at a press briefing, noting that previous hurricanes - Matthew in 2016, Floyd in 1999 and Fran in 1996 - brought heavy wind and rain to the entire state. It is now located about 625 miles southeast of Bermuda, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in a 5 a.m.

The region is also a big supplier of the nation's cotton, with North Carolina ranking ninth among states for the current 2018-19 crop year, SC 11 and Virginia 16.

Stocks in weather-sensitive industries reacted as Hurricane Florence moved closer to the U.S. East Coast on Monday.

Meanwhile, two other storms were also spinning in the Atlantic.

Moving south in the Atlantic, Isaac strengthened into a hurricane late Sunday with winds of 75 miles per hour and is moving west at 14 miles per hour.

It would be the first Category 4 hurricane to do so since Hugo in 1989.

"Red, no-swimming flags are flying, and everyone must stay out of the water", Dare County Emergency Management Director Drew Pearson said.

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On its current track Florence is expected to slam the Carolinas and Virginia the hardest - and all three states have issued emergency declarations to speed preparations.

The last Category 4 storm to hit the Carolinas was Hugo, which barreled into Charleston, South Carolina, in 1989. Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune urged people to secure their homes but said it's too early to know if evacuations will be ordered.

"Literally, they are filling buggies full of water, shopping carts full of water", Ryan Deeck, grocery department manager at a Walmart, told The Sun News. People rushed to buy bottled water, plywood and other supplies.

North Carolina officials started getting bulldozers and chain saws ready. While larger than Katrina (which was 415 miles wide), it still has a ways to go to reach the record width of 1,000 miles from Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Where the storm makes landfall has implications for where the strongest winds and biggest rise in water at the coast occurs, but strong winds and extreme rainfall could occur at great distances from the landfall location.

Florida-based Carnival Cruise Line was re-routing its cruise ships, but there were other hurricanes to contend with.

Florence grew into a major hurricane on Monday morning and was upgraded again to a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength at midday as its top sustained wind speeds reached 130 miles per hour.

A westward motion is forecast to continue through the end of the week, with Isaac expected to move across the Lesser Antilles and into the eastern Caribbean Sea Wednesday night or Thursday. The National Hurricane Center issued another update saying there are no coastal watches or warnings in effect, but hurricane and storm surge watches could be issued Tuesday morning.

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