Tropical Storm Florence expected to strengthen into hurricane soon
As Tropical Storm Florence moved closer to the East Coast, experts said that they expected the storm to grow better organized and strengthen into a hurricane by the end of the day on Saturday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
Maximum winds currently remain near 65 mph and extend outward up to 140 miles from the center of the storm, but those conditions are expected to grow worse as the storm forms into a major hurricane by Tuesday, according to the NOAA's National Hurricane Center. It is currently moving west at 7 mph and is expected to maintain that pace over the next several days before hitting the coast on Thursday or later.
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Storm swells created by Florence were already affecting Bermuda on Saturday and were expected to reach portions of the East Coast over the weekend, potentially creating life-threatening surf and rip currents, the NOAA reported.
But as the storm approaches, it is not yet clear where it may make landfall in the United States and who might be affected.
Nevertheless, multiple East Coast governors are warning their states to prepare for the storm as if it's headed their way.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, declared a state of emergency as reports came in that Florence was expected to strengthen into a hurricane. He warned residents of the state to prepare their homes and property immediately for the incoming storm as it appeared unpredictable and unusual compared to past storms, but maintained a steady path toward South Carolina's coast.
"We do not know when it will change or if it will change, but we are preparing for the worst and, of course, hoping for the best," McMaster said at a press conference on Saturday. "But being prepared is always the best strategy."
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, also declared a state of emergency for his state, but his larger concern was for farmers. The governor signed an executive order that waived service hour and weight limit restrictions on trucks carrying crops and livestock.
"While it's still too early to know the storm's path, we know we have to be prepared," Cooper said. "During harvest, time is of the essence. Action today can avoid losses due to Florence."