Hurricane Florence prompts mandatory evacuations

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Hurricane Florence has strengthened into a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm as it closes in on North and SC, carrying wind and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern U.S. coast. Evacuations were happening along the coast of North and South Carolina, and the projected landfall was expected between Charleston, South Carolina, and Norfolk, Virginia.

The first effects were already being seen on barrier islands as risky rip currents hit beaches and seawater flowed over a state highway.

That has resulted in models indicating Florence will take more of a westerly route, away from Central Virginia.

A storm surge watch is in effect for Edisto Beach, SC, to South Santee River, SC, and for north of Duck, NC, to the North Carolina/Virginia border.

"We're just a strip of land - we're a barrier island", she said.

The NHC also was tracking two other hurricanes farther out in the Atlantic: Category 1 Isaac and Category 2 Helene. Early on Monday Isaac, which the NHC called a small hurricane, was about 1,900km east of the Windward Islands - a region still recovering from 2017's powerful Hurricane Maria - with maximum sustained winds near 120km/h.

State offices - including the University of SC - and schools also will close in 26 counties in the eastern part of the state Tuesday, McMaster said. Its center will move between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday and approach the coast of SC or North Carolina on Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said. This is the eleventh year on record that the Atlantic has had three or more named storms simultaneously.

The center of Florence was forecast to sweep between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday before making its assault on the USA coast.

"The hurricane's wind field is expected to grow with time as it approaches the coast of the Carolinas", said John Quagliariello from the National Weather Service in Columbia.

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The governors of Virginia, Maryland, and North and SC have declared states of emergency ahead of the storm.

Cooper has already requested from President Donald Trump a federal disaster declaration to ensure North Carolina receives financial aid as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, forecasters urged residents to complete such storm preparations by the end of Wednesday, saying some impacts from Florence were nearly a certainty by Thursday.

All eyes are on Hurricane Florence and its path toward the Carolinas, but other hurricanes and tropical storms are brewing as well.

As has been previously announced, the USC campus is closed beginning Tuesday and until further notice per South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster's order. "I'd say get ready".

The retired Havelock native said she'd been through hurricanes before and said she was "not scared" about the prospect of the first major hurricane of the 2018 season.

The size of the hurricane-force winds doubled over 12 hours from 30 to 60 mph, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said Monday afternoon.

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington, near the shore, canceled its upcoming alumni weekend and all classes starting at noon Monday, encouraging its students to leave campus for a safer location. He said USA 278 and US 21 would be "ready for reversal" at noon Tuesday, but a final decision on whether to reverse flow on the two highways would come later from local authorities.