Tropical Storm “Florence” is expected become a “major hurricane” Monday as it continues to approach the southeastern US East Coast, triggering warnings to people up and down the coast to get their emergency kits ready, map out escape routes and fill sandbags.
In its 11 p.m. EDT advisory, the National Hurricane Center said “a rapid phase of intensification” was expected to begin Sunday.
Florence is expected to travel between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday before approaching the southeastern US coast on Thursday.
The Miami-based weather center says Florence’s maximum sustained winds are estimated to be 70 mph (110 kph). The storm is centered about 790 miles (1,270 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda and moving west at 6 mph (9 kph).
Red flags flying on beaches warned swimmers to stay out of waters already roiled by the distant storm and cruise ships and Navy vessels were set to be steered out of harm’s way.
People rushed to buy bottled water, plywood and other supplies.
Forecasters said it is too early to know the exact path the storm will take but warned that it could roll ashore in the Carolinas by Thursday.
Forecasters urged residents from South Carolina to the mid-Atlantic to get ready — and not just for a possible direct blow against the coast. They warned that Florence could slow or stall after coming ashore, with some forecasting models showing it could unload a foot or two of rain in places, causing devastating inland flooding.
Forecasters also warned that the threat of a life-threatening storm surge was rising.