Hurricane Florence strengthens to a Category 3 storm

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The National Hurricane Center says it is still too early to predict the hurricane's exact path, but a huge coastal area from northern Florida to North Carolina should prepare for a major hit.

The hurricane center said, "All indications are that Florence will be an extremely risky Category 4 hurricane while it moves over the western Atlantic toward the southeastern United States".

Still said it been "quite some time" since a storm of Florence's magnitude had approached Southeastern North Carolina.

Hurricane Florence continues to grow in size and strength as it barrels toward the U.S. East Coast. According to officials, Florence has already created swells that are affecting Bermuda and are expected to affect portions o the States, resulting in "life-threatening surf and rip currents".

It is now 1,305 miles east of the Windward Islands, which are in the West Indies, and moving westward at 14 mph.

Florence is the first of three storms brewing in the Atlantic - ahead of Hurricane Helene and Tropical Storm Isaac, which are not expected to threaten the United States mainland.

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A third storm, Hurricane Helene, was spinning in the Atlantic off West Africa's Cabo Verde Islands with 75-mph (121-kph) winds on Sunday, but did not appear to pose an immediate threat to land.

Storms increase in frequency and intensity by mid-August and into September as temperatures in the Atlantic climb to their highest levels, Javaheri said.

The storm had been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm last week before it began to strengthen again over the Atlantic late Friday.

"This storm is too powerful and its path is too uncertain to take any chances", South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said in issuing his state's emergency declaration.

The Miami-based center said in its 5 a.m. ET advisory that Florence was about 625 miles (1,005 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda, moving west northwest at 9 mph (15 kmh).

The immediate threat this weekend will be large swells and unsafe rip currents along the East Coast due to the storm.

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On Friday, North Carolina declared a state of emergency.

Rapidly intensifying Hurricane Florence could strike a direct and unsafe blow anywhere from the Carolinas to the Mid-Atlantic region later this week.

Impacts on Virginia include possible flooding, high winds, and potential storm surge, the release noted, and residents should remember that flash floods could happen at any time and that flooding is the most deadly and damaging part of any hurricane.

"We are entering the peak of hurricane season and we know well the unpredictability and power of these storms", Cooper said.

Tropical-storm-force winds could reach the coastline as early as Wednesday night, at which point all outdoor preparations should be completed. The storm was moving west at 13 miles per hour (20 kmh).

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