Evacuations underway as Florence strengthens to category 4 hurricane

Florence strengthens to Category 4, takes aim at Carolinas

Florence could reach Category 5 strength Tuesday; NC prepares

Here are the 5 AM EDT Key Messages for Hurricane #Florence.

"If I could explain it with goal posts, the farthest south I'd go is Savannah, Georgia and the farthest north is Cape Hatteras off the uppermost coast of North Carolina".

The National Hurricane Center downgraded Isaac to a tropical storm overnight but said Tuesday that it could be "at or near hurricane levels" on Thursday, when it approaches the Lesser Antilles Islands.

The NHC also was tracking two other hurricanes farther out in the Atlantic: Category 1 Isaac and Category 2 Helene.

Current forecast models indicate that Florence could strike the Carolinas and enter central Virginia, possibly stalling and dropping more than 20 inches of rain in some areas.

Horry and Georgetown counties shifted their operating conditions at noon Monday as Hurricane Florence continued to strengthen and head toward the Carolina coast.

Forecasters say that the storm will take a west-northwestward motion and will increase its movement over the next several days. Now tracking in the Atlantic Ocean southeast of the USA mainland, "A turn toward the northwest is forecast to occur late Wednesday night", the latest NHC dispatch stated.

Heavy rain in the Washington area over the weekend has already led to flooding in historic Alexandria, Virginia, local media reported, and the National Weather Service issued a flood watch for part of the Potomac River. Watches are usually put in place 48 hours before landfall and warnings come after that.

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The governors of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia have declared states of emergency. "These winds may have the potential to cause widespread and prolonged power outages". Landfall may be Thurs.

Evacuations have been ordered as the US East Coast braces for Hurricane Florence - in what may be the strongest storm to hit the region in decades.

Two other hurricanes are now churning in the Atlantic Ocean.

"To the incredible citizens of North Carolina, South Carolina and the entire East Coast - the storm looks very bad!" Georgia, West Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Delaware, New Jersey, southern Pennsylvania, and eastern Tennessee, Kentucky, and OH could also see strong winds.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said his state was "in the bullseye" of the storm and urged people to "get ready now".

Hurricane Florence is intensifying in the Atlantic Ocean and is now a Category 4 storm, according to the National Hurricane Center. As of 5 p.m., hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 40 miles from the storm's center, while tropical storm-force winds extend out 150 miles.

At a hardware store in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, store manager John Johnson said the rush on batteries, flashlights, plastic tarps and sandbags began Friday.

Navy ships off Virginia's coast were preparing to sail out of the path, a North Carolina university has already canceled classes and people have begun stocking up on plywood, bottled water and other supplies.

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