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.
As of 11 a.m. Sunday, the storm was moving westward at 6 miles per hour. Drawing energy from the warm water, it could have top sustained winds of 130 miles per hour (209 kph) or more by Tuesday, the Miami-based center said.
Florence remains a tropical storm located 840 miles southeast of Bermuda, it is moving west at 9 mph. The storm could impact anywhere from northern Florida to north of the Washington, D.C., area, producing life-threatening conditions.
SC and Virginia declared states of emergencies to give residents time to make preparations for the severe weather. Five days out from expected landfall, there's still wide uncertainty about where it will hit and at what intensity, but the latest models show that it's most likely to make landfall in the southeast USA, between northern Florida and North Carolina.
He estimated about 1 million residents would flee the coast of his state, following earlier orders for the evacuation of more than 50,000 people from the southern-most Outer Banks barrier islands of North Carolina.
"You have all day today, the weather's generally OK; tomorrow, Monday, those are the days people need to be out there preparing because come Tuesday and Wednesday, if this holds, there's going to be a lot of concerned folks out there".
The National Hurricane Center announced Sunday morning that Florence escalated into a hurricane with winds reaching 75mph as it swirls across the Atlantic.More news: Who Is Bob Woodward? From Watergate to His New Book 'Fear'
Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency Friday night to ease load restrictions on farmers moving harvests from fields to market or storage.
Florence, the sixth tropical storm in the Atlantic basin this year, intensified into a hurricane on Sunday and will rapidly gain force as it churns over the open ocean toward the US East Coast, with landfall likely in the Carolinas later this week, forecasters said. It was picking up speed over the Atlantic's warm waters, causing concerns about landfall and flooding from heavy rains afterward, possibly late Thursday or Friday.
Tropical Storm Florence was gathering strength Saturday, with the National Hurricane Center expecting it to become a hurricane overnight.
A hurricane hunter plane found Florence strengthening quickly after it became a hurricane Sunday.
Further to the east, forecasters are also watching hurricanes Isaac and Helene. Isaac's forward movement was accelerating on a path to cross into the lower Caribbean on Thursday.
Florence crossed the 74 miles per hour threshold from tropical storm to a hurricane Sunday morning, and by evening its winds were up to 85 miles per hour (140 kph) as the National Hurricane Center warned a hurricane hunter plane found the storm strengthening quickly.