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.
Florence was forecast to become a Category 3 hurricane by Monday with sustained winds of more than 110 mph. And it’s not likely to weaken before reaching the shores of North and South Carolina and Virginia on Thursday, AccuWeather meteorologist Brett Rossi said.
The ground is already saturated from recent rains, rivers are high, and the storm will be moving slowly when it arrives, exacerbating the situation, Rossi told USA TODAY.
“This is very scary rain event potentially setting up this week,” Rossi said. “Florence could dump a foot of rain in places that cannot handle it, making for a very scary flooding situation in some areas.”
The National Hurricane Center’s breakdown of storm strength says Category 3 storms can bring “devastating” destruction. Homes can be damaged, trees uprooted and electricity and water can be knocked out for days or weeks, the center warns.
“There is an increasing risk of life-threatening hazards from storm surge and heavy rainfall from the Carolinas into the mid-Atlantic region,” the hurricane center tweeted.
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The Navy said all ships in Virginia’s coastal Hampton Roads area were preparing to leave port for open seas Monday. Admiral Christopher Grady said ships can better weather “storms of this magnitude when they are underway.”
South Carolina emergency management officials said they were “preparing for the possibility of a large-scale disaster.”
Virginia joined North and South Carolina in declaring a state of emergency ahead of the storm. Gov. Ralph Northam said the Virginia National Guard, the Virginia State Police and other state agencies have already begun preparations.
Because of the uncertainty of the storm’s track, Northam encouraged all state residents to prepare for the storm. Florence could bring significant flooding along the coast all the way to rivers and streams in the western part of the state, he said.
“I encourage Virginians to monitor forecasts and make their own preparations now,” Northam said.
All three governors urged residents to assemble emergency kits including food, water, medications, pet supplies and important documents that might be needed if evacuations are necessary.
“Now is the time for your family also to prepare and stay tuned for more updates,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said. “Plan for the worst, pray for the best.”