Hurricane Florence Will Have a "Minimal Impact" on Massachusetts, Forecasters Say

Expected track for Helene which is projected to become a hurricane Sunday. Image courtesy the National Hurricane Center

Hurricane Florence has strengthened into a Category 4 storm with 130 miles per hour maximum-sustained winds as it swirls toward the U.S. East Coast.

The storm was upgraded Monday morning to a Category 3 hurricane, but grew to Category 4 a short time later, the National Hurricane Center said in its latest update Monday.

Florence, the most intense of the three has reached Category 4 status and will likely continue to strengthen as it moves over the warm waters heading for landfall on the East Coast later this week.

Florence is now moving west at around 13 miles per hour (20 kph), and is forecast to drench a large swath of the US East Coast running from northern Florida to New Jersey.

The latest projection for the path of the storm, released Sunday, shows the storm track centered on Wilmington, N.C., with forecasters predicting it will be a "dangerous major hurricane" by the time it reaches the coast later in the week.

Mike Sprayberry, director of the state Division of Emergency Management, said the storm could have statewide impacts, from storm surge and high winds along the coast to flooding inland.

The storm "is too powerful and its path is too uncertain to take any chances", South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said, issuing his state's emergency declaration. "Pretend, assume, presume that a major hurricane is going to hit SC". Hurricane Helene is expected to turn north into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, according to the National Hurricane Center.

It was centered about 1,230 miles (1,985 kilometers) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, and moving west at 13 mph (20 kph).

The 2018 hurricane season has been quiet up to this point, but now there are two more systems developing behind Florence.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper urged his state's residents to get ready, noting the storm was generating swelling waves and risky currents. "Strengthening is forecast during the next few days, and Isaac is expected to become a hurricane by Monday, (September 10)", the DDM said.

Some forecasts call for Florence to stall out after it strikes the coast.

"The storm is strong and getting stronger", Cooper said. Forecasters also warned of a rising threat of life-threatening storm surge, along with the damage of a hurricane's high winds. North Carolina Highway Patrol Sgt. Chris Knox told NPR that North Carolina residents needed to prepare: "When we put those orders out, when we tell people 'this is a flood-prone area, ' that you need to find somewhere else to go, don't roll the dice".

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