A hurricane bringing 130 mph winds and the risk of devastating storms, rain, and floods to the US has strengthened to a Category 4 storm.
Hurricane Florence strengthened to a Category 4 about midday Eastern Time on Monday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) announced.
It was poised to make landfall early Thursday somewhere around North and South Carolina and is likely to keep strengthening as it approaches. Those two states, as well as Virginia, have declared a state of emergency as they make preparations.
The NHC said on Monday morning that the storm could remain powerful as it passes over the US mainland, and could penetrate as far as Pittsburgh. It also warned of a “life-threatening freshwater flooding” and “exceptionally heavy rainfall” over the East Coast.
Forecasters also said it could unload one or two feet of rain in some places, causing devastating inland flooding, the Associated Press reported.
As of Monday morning, the hurricane was centered near Bermuda and moving west at 130 mph.
The map below, published by the NOAA, shows the most likely arrival time over the next few days.
It suggests that the winds are likely to hit North and South Carolina on Thursday morning and Pennsylvania by evening.
The NHC said on Monday morning:
“Life-threatening freshwater flooding is likely from a prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event, which may extend inland over the Carolinas and Mid Atlantic for hundreds of miles as Florence is expected to slow down as it approaches the coast and moves inland.
“Damaging hurricane-force winds are likely along portions of the coasts of South Carolina and North Carolina, and a Hurricane Watch will likely be issued by Tuesday morning.
“Damaging winds could also spread well inland into portions of the Carolinas and Virginia.
“Large swells affecting Bermuda and portions of the US East Coast will continue this week, resulting in life-threatening surf and rip currents.”
A rip current forms when high wind and breaking waves push water from the sea to the land.
The NHC said it was still too soon to specify the exact timing, location, and size of the storm surge and flooding, but it did tell authorities to monitor the storm’s progress.
Shifts in the hurricane’s path are still possible, The Washington Post said.
Residents have also started stockpiling supplies like bottled water, plywood, and power supplies.
Ryan Deeck, a Walmart grocery department manager in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, said, according to Myrtle Beach Online, “Literally, they are filling buggies full of water, shopping carts full of water.
“They’re coming in and buying water and plates and that’s about all they’re buying. They’re buying six and seven of everything.”
He added: “Every store is seeing an about 100 percent increase versus [this time] last year.”