Florence strengthens to hurricane, continues trek toward southeast U.S.


The National Hurricane Center classified tropical storm Florence as a Category 1 hurricane, Sunday, warning that it would rapidly intensify into a major hurricane by Monday and could make the Thursday landfall as a Category 4 "extremely unsafe major hurricane". The storm now has maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour and gusts as high as 90 miles per hour.

This NOAA/RAMMB satellite image taken at 13:30 UTC on September 9, 2018 shows Tropical Storm Florence - which forecasters say will soon become an extremely unsafe hurricane - being followed westward across the Atlantic by Tropical Storms Isaac and Helene8.

Florence appeared headed for landfall on Thursday afternoon near the North Carolina-South Carolina border, according to maps of the storm's trajectory predicted by the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The National Hurricane Center projects Hurricane Florence could become a major storm - classified as Category 3 or higher - by Monday. As the forecast confidence grows this week we will be able to show where the most severe wind will be, and how high the storm surge could be.

Virginia, North Carolina and SC have declared states of emergency in preparation for Florence's potential impact.

The Navy planned to send ships from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia out to sea.

Another tropical storm has now developed in the Atlantic and could possibly hit the British Virgin Islands as a hurricane in the next few days.

The storm was expected to cause life-threatening surf and rip currents along the USA east coast this weekend. As of 10:30 a.m. Saturday, the storm was 840 miles southeast of Bermuda while heading west at 9 mph with maximum winds of 65 mph.

The storm itself, however, is not expected to make landfall until Thursday evening at the earliest, according to the latest forecast path from the NHC.

The storm could hit the southeastern US coast by late this week as a Category 3 storm or higher, bringing life-threatening winds, flooding, and storm surge.

Florences effects were already being felt along the coast, with risky swells and rip currents in some spots.

Helene's hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 15 miles (30 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 80 miles (130 km).

The storm had been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm last week before it began to strengthen again over the Atlantic late Friday. Hurricane Helene is expected to get stronger, but stay in the open waters of the Atlantic.