Florence rapidly strengthened into a potentially catastrophic Category 4 hurricane on Monday as it closed in on North and SC, carrying winds and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week.
The most recent update from the National Hurricane Center shows that Hurricane Florence is holding steady as a monster Category 4 storm with 130 miles per hour sustained winds, as of 1:36 a.m. Tuesday.
Last night, The National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's hurricane hunter has found that Florence is strengthening, and is forecast to become a major hurricane on Monday. The hurricane is likely to bring risky surf and rip currents along the east coast.
President Donald Trump issued a strong warning to those in the path of Hurricane Florence, which is on track to hit the East Coast as a major storm later this week.
"We are not going to gamble with the lives of the people of South Carolina", McMaster said.
Florence bloomed into a category 4 monster on Monday as it made its way west across the Atlantic Ocean toward a possible landfall somewhere along the North Carolina coast late Thursday or early Friday.
Predicting hurricane tracks is a hard science, and the NHC said there are still uncertainties about the storm's track.
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North Carolina ordered evacuations for the Outer Banks barrier islands, including popular tourist destination Hatteras Island. Those two states, as well as Virginia, have declared a state of emergency while they prepare.
The Navy said all ships in Virginia's coastal Hampton Roads area were preparing to leave port for open seas.
Ryan Deeck, a Walmart grocery department manager in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, said, according to Myrtle Beach Online: "Literally, they are filling buggies full of water, shopping carts full of water".
The storm was getting bigger and better organised and is expected to continue to strengthen for the next day or so, the NHC said.
The Miami-based center says the storm's center was located about 410 miles (660 kilometers) south of Bermuda and about 975 miles (1570 kilometers) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina.
A "major" hurricane is one with sustained winds of more than 110 miles per hour.
Plants in the storm's path are shut down about 12 hours in advance of being hit. Heavy rain may impact as far inland as Charlotte, North Carolina's largest city, though the severity will depend on the storm's track, according to The Charlotte Observer. Shelves in some grocery stores in Raleigh, North Carolina, were already bare, and residents were filling up their gas tanks, reported NBC affiliate WRAL in Raleigh.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released a "mesmerising loop" showing Hurricane Florence from space.
In Guam, Typhoon Mangkhut - a Category 4 storm - narrowly missed dealing a direct blow to the island.