Hurricane Florence has rapidly intensified into a "potentially catastrophic" Category 4 major hurricane with 130 miles per hour winds as it makes its way toward the U.S. East Coast, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The National Hurricane Center said on Sunday night that the storm could remain powerful as it passes over the United States mainland, and could penetrate as far as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
As of 5 a.m. ET Monday, Hurricane Florence's center was about 625 miles southeast of Bermuda and was moving west-northwest at a speed of 9 mph. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions. "Florence is expected to be an extremely risky major hurricane through Thursday".
"We are preparing for the worst, and of course hoping for the best", South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said.
"We do not want to risk one SC life in this hurricane", the governor told a press conference. Its center will move between Bermuda and the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday, and approach the coast of SC or North Carolina on Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said.
Florence is now one of three hurricanes spinning in the Atlantic Ocean, along with Helene and Isaac.
Heavy rain in the Washington area over the weekend has already led to flooding in historic Alexandria, Virginia, and the National Weather Service issued a flood watch for part of the Potomac River. "Data from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that Florence has continued to rapidly strengthen".
From left to right below you see the X marking the area of potential development, Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Isaac, and Hurricane Helene.
On North Carolina's Outer Banks, Dawn Farrow Taylor, 50, was gathering photos and important documents and filling prescriptions Monday before heading inland. That would make state and local agencies eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement of some costs.
"We are not going to restrict people's movements within the county until lane reversals are necessary, if they become necessary", said Sheriff's Office spokesperson Capt.
Oosterwyk was gathering important papers including tax documents from her store on Monday, and said she planned to drive 240km (150 miles) inland to Cary to ride the storm out. "When weather forecasters tell us 'life threatening, ' we know it's serious".
"If I could explain it with goal posts, the farthest south I'd go is Savannah, Georgia and the farthest north is Cape Hatteras off the uppermost coast of North Carolina".
Erin Byrd checked in online from Publix in Apex, North Carolina.
"Whatever happens, we're going to have a lot of rain and a lot of wind, even if the hurricane goes farther north", he added.
As of Monday evening, Hurricane Florence was moving west-northwest at 13 miles per hour.