Gov. McMaster declares state of emergency ahead of storm arrival

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Florence is moving toward the west near 6 miles per hour, and this general motion is expected to continue today.

Experts say the East Coast should prepare for a blow by the middle of the week as the hurricane rapidly intensifies. The storms are two of three hurricanes now spinning in the Atlantic.

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The governors of Virginia, North Carolina and SC have all declared states of emergency.

At present Florence has maximum winds of 70mph.

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At this height of the Atlantic hurricane season, Florence was being trailed on east-to-west paths by two other hurricanes, Helene and Isaac. Whether or not that occurs before or after landfall makes the longer range forecast uncertain at this point. And it would be the first major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) to hit the East Coast since Jeanne, which struck Florida in 2004. However, it gained strength on Saturday afternoon and as of the 5 p.m. advisory, is packing winds of 40 mph and has shifted west, about 1,640 miles east of the Windward Islands. People were told to prepare to evacuate communities up and down a stretch of coastline already identified as particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels due to climate change.

Gov. Ralph Northam ordered a mandatory evacuation to begin at 8 a.m. Tuesday for 245,000 people in parts of the Hampton Roads area and the Eastern shore. In Maryland, where some coastal areas are still recovering from weather Gov. Larry Hogan said flooding could be catastrophic if it hits the state. "You see how it's beginning to wrap around the center".

This is the latest "cone of uncertainty", which shows an area where the center of the storm could go, when and how strong it might be at the given time.

Florence is expected to become a major hurricane by Monday, the National Hurricane Center said, adding that "a rapid intensification" is forecast to begin Sunday.

Forecasters at the NHC said Florence would continue to strengthen and "is expected to remain an extremely risky major hurricane through Thursday".

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The Miami-based center defines a major hurricane as one with wind speed greater than 110 miles per hour.

The storm will bring with it large swells and life-threatening rip currents.

Loewenthal said the area should prepare to see impacts, including rough surf and risky rip currents, as early as Sunday.

"Red, no-swimming flags are flying, and everyone must stay out of the water", Dare County Emergency Management Director Drew Pearson said.

"Everyone in North Carolina needs to keep a close eye on Florence and take steps now to get ready for impacts later this week", Cooper said in a statement on Sunday.

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"This is a real hurricane we have coming", McMaster said Monday.