Hurricane Florence reaches Category 2 strength as it targets the Carolinas

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The center of the hurricane is predicted to move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas by Wednesday and could intensify into a Category 4 storm, with winds reaching 130-156 miles per hour, before it makes USA landfall sometime Thursday or early Friday.

Florence was about 685 miles (1,100 km) southeast of Bermuda as of 11 p.m. on Friday (0300 GMT on Monday), packing maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour (150 km/h), the Miami-based forecasters said.

The storm is expected to take a track that will move west-southwest and eventually curve toward a possible landfall in North or SC.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said Florence could grow into a powerful Category 4 storm by Thursday, striking with winds ranging from 130 to 150 miles per hour.

Lining up behind Florence, Isaac was about 1,150 miles east of the Windward Islands with top winds of 75 mph early Monday, moving west at 14 mph.

At a news conference on Sunday, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster warned of a "likely strong hit" on the state and urged residents to begin making preparations now. The evacuation zone includes the most flood-prone coastal areas, Northam said.

The governors of North and SC and Virginia declared states of emergency far ahead of the storm to get ready.

Florence reached Category 3 earlier Monday and quickly gained intensity over warm Atlantic waters.

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More than 1 million people along the Carolina coast fled toward higher ground on Monday in a mass evacuation ordered three days before the expected arrival of Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm and the most powerful to menace the region in almost three decades.

Meanwhile, the two other tropical storms in the Atlantic - Florence and Helen - are expected to become hurricanes today. Forecast models suggest that more than two feet of rain could fall over the higher elevations of the Carolinas and Virginia, which would generate unsafe flooding downstream.

A mandatory evacuation order was issued for North Carolina's Hatteras Island starting at noon Monday, Dare County Emergency Management. said.

Florence has become even stronger over the Atlantic Ocean. "I plan to do most of my cooking on the grill".

If or when hurricane Florence does make it to the USA coastline it could do so as a major hurricane, as intensity forecasts show Florence reaching a higher storm category again. Tropical storm force winds and some rain bands will likely begin Wednesday night, regardless of the actual landfall of the storm.

"The last Atlantic hurricane to intensify as rapidly as far north as Florence's current location was Hurricane Humberto in 2007", he said. Several computer models have come into agreement Florence will impact the Carolina coastline, with many of them taking the storm inland. People rushed to get emergency kits ready, map out escape routes and fill sandbags and secure their homes.

McMaster said he had asked President Donald Trump to declare a federal emergency in SC in anticipation of the storm's arrival. Whiteville's Lowes Home Improvement Store was doing a brisk business in plywood, duct tape, and generators Sunday afternoon.

The US navy has ordered ships at its major base in Hampton Roads, Virginia, base to put to sea, saying "the forecasted destructive winds and tidal surge are too great to keep the ships in port".

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