Hurricane watch issued for Lowcountry coast; Florence maintains Category 4 strength

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Hurricane Florence strengthened early on Monday with maximum sustained winds of 105 miles per hour (170 kph) and forecasters warned it could soon become a major hurricane as it churns toward the U.S. East Coast.

In the Pacific, Hurricane Olivia is now a Category 1 storm with winds of 75 mph, and is approximately 595 miles east-northeast of Hilo, Hawaii, as of 5 p.m. local time Sunday. Forecasters said Florence was expected to become an extremely risky major hurricane sometime Monday and remain that way for days.

On its current track, the storm could make landfall around the Carolinas on Thursday or Friday.

Florence was producing large swells expected to reach from the northern Caribbean to the southern coasts of Canada's Maritime provinces.

Residents as far north as Virginia were warned that Florence could bring a life-threatening coastal storm surge, as well as inland flooding from "prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall", the NHC said.

Florence, a tropical storm as of 8 a.m. Sunday morning, was 660 nautical miles southeast of Bermuda and moving west.

Earlier Sunday Florence regained its hurricane status and rapid strengthening from here is expected since the storm is encountering less wind shear and warm waters.

At this height of the Atlantic hurricane season, Florence was being trailed on east-to-west paths by two other hurricanes, Helene and Isaac. "I am declaring a state of emergency so that we can begin to prepare state assets, and I encourage Virginians to monitor forecasts and make their own preparations now", Northam said.

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While there's been remarkable agreement with the latest forecast models on Florence's track, the "cone of uncertainty" still stretches as far south as Georgia, and as for north as Virginia. Hurricane Floyd was a Category 4 storm before it hit Florida, traveled up the coast and struck Cape Fear as a strong Category 2 storm.

Hurricane Helene, was spinning in the Atlantic off West Africa's Cabo Verde Islands with 85-mph (140-kph) winds on Sunday, but did not appear to pose an immediate threat to land.

Farther north into the Delmarva Peninsula, residents of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and NY and coastal and inland areas should also monitor the storm and prepare in case the forecast shifts to the north and east. If the strength continue to rise, Florence will be one of just three storms in the records to have winds of 150 miles-per-hour this far north, said Phil Klotzbach, a Colorado State University hurricane researcher. As projected paths for Florence continue to change, Gov. Henry McMaster said during an update Sunday afternoon, "What that means for us in SC is that whatever happens, we're going to have a lot of rain and a lot of wind".

Florence is moving toward the west near 9 km/h, and this general motion is expected to continue today. "Florence could dump a foot of rain in places that cannot handle it, making for a very scary flooding situation in some areas". NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center/Handout via REUTERSA photo taken from the International Space Station by astronaut Ricky Arnold shows Hurricane Florence over the Atlantic Ocean in the early morning hours of September 6, 2018.

Isaac is moving toward the west near 14 miles per hour.

At 5 a, m., the center of Tropical Storm Isaac was located near latitude 14.6 North, longitude 48.1 West. The NHC now shows Isaac heading west across the tropical Atlantic between South America and the Caribbean, but a path and intensity beyond that is unknown as it moves toward the Lesser Antilles.

Not only has the storm exploded in intensity, but its zone of hurricane-force winds approximately doubled in size Monday. Weakening is forecast to begin by the middle of the week as Isaac approaches the Lesser Antilles.