Houston, Texas, USA : Hurricane Florence grew stronger as it barreled toward the U.S. Southeast coast Monday, rapidly intensifying into a Category 4 storm as officials from Virginia to Florida warned residents to prepare for a potentially devastating hit.
In addition to a storm surge and winds, the National Hurricane Center says:
“Life-threatening freshwater flooding is likely from a prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event, which may extend inland over the Carolinas and Mid Atlantic for hundreds of miles as Florence is expected to slow down as it approaches the coast and moves inland.”
Only an hour earlier, the National Hurricane Center said Florence had strengthened into a Category 3 storm. But the agency then tweeted at noon Florence had grown again to a Category 4, with maximum sustained winds near 130 mph.
Florence is currently 575 miles south-southeast of Bermuda and about 1,230 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving west at 13 mph.
North and South Carolina are anticipated to bear the brunt, according to forecasters. In North Carolina, evacuations were already underway: Dare County officials issued a mandatory evacuation on Monday for Hatteras Island in the Outer Banks, and ordered more evacuations for other areas of the county beginning Tuesday morning.
Gov. Roy Cooper, D-N.C., warned residents to take the threat of the storm seriously.
“The forecast places North Carolina in the bull’s-eye of Hurricane Florence, and the storm is rapidly getting stronger,” he said. “When weather forecasters tell us ‘life-threatening,’ we know that it is serious.”
North Carolina should brace for three dangers from Florence, Cooper said: coastal ocean surges, strong winds, and island flooding.
“All parts of the state could be affected by the storm,” Cooper said at a press conference on Monday morning, warning that power outages could last for “awhile.”
Cooper added that he has already activated 200 National Guard troops, and asked President Donald Trump for a disaster declaration ahead of the storm so federal help can be made available to North Carolina as quickly as possible.
Cooper declared a state of emergency for North Carolina over the weekend. The governors of South Carolina and Virginia also declared states of emergency in advance.
On Sunday, South Carolina’s state emergency management agency tweeted it was “preparing for the possibility of a large-scale disaster.”
The hurricane is expected to approach the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Florence is one of three hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, along with Helene and Isaac. Of the two other storms, which remain far from land, Isaac poses the most immediate risk. With winds of 75 mph, it’s expected to strengthen a bit before weakening as it approaches the Lesser Antilles on Thursday and Friday.
Dangerous storms are also threatening parts of the U.S. in the Pacific Ocean. Most of the state of Hawaii was under either a tropical storm warning or watch on Monday morning, as Hurricane Olivia bears westward, with 85 mph winds.
Olivia could weaken into a strong tropical storm within 48 hours, according to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu. But forecasters say residents should still beware of the chance for dangerous flooding and wind.
In Guam, Typhoon Mangkhut — a Category 4 storm — narrowly missed dealing a direct blow to the island.
As Florence gathered strength far out in the Atlantic, Wall Street was trying to pick winners and losers from any havoc it might cause.
Shares of companies seen benefiting from the storm preparation and repair effort were broadly higher, including generator maker Generac Holdings Inc (GNRC.N), building materials maker Owens Corning (OC.N), and roofing supplier Beacon Roofing Supply Inc (BECN.O), which were up between 4 percent and 7 percent. Retailers Lowe’s Companies Inc (LOW.N) and Home Depot Inc (HD.N) gained nearly 2 percent.
On the downside, several insurers seen vulnerable to potential claims losses slipped, led by a 2.5 percent drop in Allstate Corp (ALL.N) and a 2.3 percent decline in Travelers Companies Inc (TRV.N).
Image : Hurricane Florence is expected to hit the southeastern U.S. coast as a major hurricane on Thursday or Friday, after rapidly intensifying – National Weather Service