Hurricane Florence gains strength; Carolinas, Mid-Atlantic states prepare for surge

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The National Hurricane Center update on Sunday afternoon had Florence roughly 720 miles southeast of Bermuda, with little chance of being weakened by upper level winds or cooler water.

Governor 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.

In Virginia, mandatory evacuations begin 8 a.m. Tuesday for about 245,000 residents in a portion of Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore area, Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday.

North Carolina has a strong statute against price gouging - charging too much during a time of crisis - that is tied directly to a declaration of a state of emergency.

Mindful of devastation wrought by a string of deadly USA hurricanes past year, jittery residents in the Carolinas began the rituals of disaster preparation - boarding up windows and stocking up on groceries, water and gasoline.

The governors of Virginia, North Carolina and SC have all declared states of emergency.

The farther south the center of Florence is able to move, the windier it will be here in central Georgia. Vessel owners should make sure to check safety equipment is working and remove boats from the water or take them to safe harbor as the storm approaches.

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The largest U.S. Marine Corps base on the East Coast, Camp Lejeune and its extensive beachfront northeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, lie within the NHC's forecast "cone" for possible landfall.

Computer-model forecasts generally project the storm to make landfall between northern SC and North Carolina's Outer Banks as a Category 4 on Thursday, although shifts in the track are possible and storm impacts will expand great distances beyond where landfall occurs. The storm's maximum sustained winds are 65 miles per hour (100 kph) and it is moving west at 14 miles per hour (22 kph).

The storm's winds will be at 74 miles per hour to 110 miles per hour when it reaches hurricane status. It will affect the Cabo Verde Islands, possibly as a hurricane this weekend. "That is a sign of a strengthening hurricane". Hurricane-to-tropical-storm-force winds could extend inland, depending on the storm's track.

The latest track from the National Hurricane Center continuing to focus the greatest area of concern across the Carolinas. Some areas further inland could also contend with damaging winds and flooding rain.

Up and down the densely populated coast, residents were told to prepare, and not just for a direct blow. Fran was the last one back in 1996, making landfall as a Category 3. That storm was centred 185 km south southeast of the islands. The models can, and probably will continue to change over the next few days.

The hurricane center said it was still too early to predict its exact path.