JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florence could cause dangerous surf and rip currents along parts of the U.S. East Coast this weekend as the storm swirls across the Atlantic, according to forecasters at the National Hurricane Center.
By late next week, the third hurricane of the year could threaten the Carolinas or beyond as a major hurricane.
Though weakened to a tropical storm on Friday, Florence was expected to regain hurricane strength as it nears Bermuda over the weekend. Large swells were likely to start hitting the British island territory in the north Atlantic Ocean on Friday.
Forecasters said it was too soon to tell where the storm would go. Some forecast models showed Florence slamming into land by late next week, while others indicated the storm would curve away from shore.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency on Friday evening, urging residents to use the weekend to prepare for the possibility of a natural disaster.
“We are entering the peak of hurricane season and we know well the unpredictability and power of these storms,” Cooper said.
South Carolina’s Emergency Management Division also advised coastal residents to start making contingency plans.
“The risk of other direct impacts associated with Florence along the U.S. East Coast next week has increased. However, there is still very large uncertainty in model forecasts of Florence’s track beyond day (five), making it too soon to determine the exact location, magnitude, and timing of these impacts,” hurricane specialist Robbie Berg wrote in a forecast advisory.
Improving atmospheric conditions were expected to allow Florence to regain its former strength. The storm reached major hurricane status Wednesday, peaking with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (210 kph).
Meanwhile, two low pressure systems off the coast of Africa behind Florence also had high chances of developing into tropical storms, forecasters said.
“Since we are near the peak of hurricane season, this is a good time for everyone who lives in a hurricane-prone area to ensure they have their hurricane plan in place,” hurricane specialist David Zelinsky wrote in a forecast advisory.
The National Hurricane Center said Florence’s maximum sustained winds early Saturday morning were estimated to be 60 mph (95 kph). The storm was centered about 840 miles ((1351.79 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda and moving west at 9 mph (14 kph) with higher gusts. The Miami-based center said Florence is expected to become a hurricane by Sunday.