WILMINGTON - Hurricane Florence has strengthened into a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 115 miles per hour, according to the 11 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center. It's now about 575 miles southeast of Bermuda, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an 12 p.m.
The hurricane center said, "All indications are that Florence will be an extremely unsafe Category 4 hurricane while it moves over the western Atlantic toward the southeastern United States".
Schools in 26 of the state's 46 counties were to close from Tuesday. With winds of up to 150mph forecast, Florence will likely fell tree limbs and trigger power outages.
"People that have typically not been exposed to them will now be exposed to them, because the storms are going to move deeper inland and affect more people", climate scientist Cindy Bruyere, who studies storms at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, previously told Business Insider.
US President Donald Trump said the "storm looks very bad" and urged people to take precautions.
Southeastern North Carolina remains in the middle of the storm's "cone of uncertainty", with the cone extending from roughly Hilton Head, S.C., in the south to the Chesapeake Bay in the north.
President Trump tweeted Monday evening that he had just spoken on the phone with the governors of the states that will be affected and he is on standby with any assistance they need from the federal government.
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Heavy rains and strong winds could be felt in Hawaii as early as Tuesday night, forecasters warn. The warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within 36 hours. "September is the peak month of the hurricane season", he said.
In Virginia, home to the world's largest sea base, the United States navy has ordered all ships to sea in preparation for the storm, where they can more safely ride out the violent wind and waves.
The vessels will get underway from Naval Station Norfolk and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek to avoid potential damage from winds and tidal surges, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Rob Manning said.
Heavy rain in the Washington area over the weekend has already led to flooding in historic Alexandria, Virginia, and the National Weather Service issued a flood watch for part of the Potomac River.
"Never have we seen quite this type of a storm approach us". Hurricane Isaac, stirring in the mid-Atlantic Ocean with twist rates of around 75 miles per hour, is following firmly behind Florence.
The NHC said Florence is 1,170 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear in North Carolina, moving west-northwest at 13 mph. "Storm Surge and Hurricane watches are likely be issued for portions of these areas on Tuesday", said the NHC.
An average hurricane season includes at least 12 named storms - which may be less powerful than full-fledged hurricanes - and six hurricanes, with three of those being major storms.