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.
Liz Browning Fox was planning to ride out the storm on the Outer Banks, defying evacuation orders. "It's going to destroy homes", said Jeff Byard, an official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Elsewhere, Isaac is a strong tropical storm located about 670 miles east of the Lesser Antilles.
Sustained winds have reached nearly 105 miles per hour.
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"Florence is expected to be an extremely risky major hurricane through Thursday", the NHC said.
As it nears the U.S. Atlantic shore, Florence will also benefit from "very warm" sea surface temperatures of up to 85 degrees, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm has nothing to weaken it in it's path until it reaches landfall.
At this statistical height of the Atlantic hurricane season, Florence was being trailed on east-to-west paths by Hurricane Helene near the Cabo Verde islands, and Tropical Storm Isaac. Life threatening storm surge and isolated flooding rains in excess of 2 feet by the end of the event are possible.
Historically, 90 percent of fatalities from hurricanes, tropical storms and tropical depressions have been caused by water, NHC spokesman Dennis Feltgen said. More powerful hurricanes also bring higher-than-average storm surges, which can destroy coastal property. But the large storm's tropical storm-force winds could start to reach the coast of the Carolinas as early as Wednesday night, the National Hurricane Center said.
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The parking lot has been full for three days at the Ace Hardware store in coastal Calabash, North Carolina, where manager Tom Roberts said he sold 150 gas cans in two hours Monday, along with generators, plywood, rope, manual can openers, sand bags and a plethora of other items. The storm is expected to turn towards the north on Wednesday. It took Matheson and her husband almost the whole day Monday to drive the 60 miles off the barrier island.
Isaac could be upgraded to a hurricane tonight, but some weakening of the system is expected to take shape by mid-week.
National Weather Service officials in Honolulu urged residents to remain careful, noting that the difference between a Category 1 hurricane and a tropical storm is just 5 miles per hour wind speed.
U.S. President Donald Trump, whose administration was harshly criticized as being slow to respond to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, cancelled a political rally planned for Friday in Jackson, Mississippi, over safety concerns related to Florence, his campaign said. "Already we're getting some overwash, the ocean is coming over 12", she said, referring to the islands' main road.
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But, she added, she's not sure whether going inland would be much safer: "I don't know where to go from here". "There is no way to be completely safe".