Tropical storm Florence is expected to turn into a hurricane later Sunday as it churned across the mid-Atlantic with winds of 70 miles (113 kilometers) per hour towards the US East Coast, where it is expected to make landfall mid-week.
And another storm, Tropical Storm Isaac spinning farther out in the Atlantic could also become a hurricane by Monday as it gains strength, forecasters with the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami said in an advisory early Sunday. With an eye on Florence, governors in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina have declared states of emergency, warning residents to prepare for a dangerous storm.
Forecasters at the NHC said Florence would continue to strengthen and “rapid intensification is likely to begin tonight. The storm’s center was 765 miles southeast of Bermuda at 5am Sunday. It will move between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday, and approach the southeastern US coast on Thursday, the NHC said in an advisory.
Swells generated by Florence were affecting Bermuda and starting to reach parts of the US East Coast. They were likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions, according to the NHC. Authorities in Florida said they were closely monitoring the storm.
“We are now in the peak of hurricane season–disaster preparedness should be a major priority for your family,” Florida Governor Rick Scott wrote on Twitter. Florence’s precise path remained uncertain on Sunday, but the NHC said the “risk of direct impact” somewhere between Florida and North Carolina was increasing.
“This storm is too powerful and its path is too uncertain to take any chances,” said South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster on Saturday.
The US military was also preparing: the Navy on Saturday told all its ships in the Hampton Roads, Virginia–home to more than a fifth of the fleet–to prepare for an order to take to sea to avoid storm damage from any storm surge or destructive winds.
“Our ships can better weather storms of this magnitude when they are underway,” US Fleet Forces Commander Admiral Christopher Grady said in a statement.
Tropical Storm Isaac, with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph early Sunday, was about 1,500 miles east of the Windward Islands, forecasters said.