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Sunday, Sept. 9, 5:49 pm: Hurricane Florence continues to intensify rapidly as it moves ever closer to the U.S. Atlantic coast, where it could strike somewhere between SC and Virginia late this week.

"The GFS and its ensemble mean are outliers from the main model envelope, showing the system near the Outer Banks, while the rest of the guidance is well to the southwest", the NHC said Sunday in its 5 p.m. ET advisory.

Florence is now forecast to approach the North Carolina or SC coast by Thursday, although tropical storm-force winds from the system could reach the coast as early as Wednesday.

WILMINGTON, North Carolina (CNN) - More than 1 million people on the southern East Coast of the United States faced mandatory evacuation orders as Hurricane Florence neared Category 5 strength Tuesday.

The turbulent storm was last spotted 710 miles southeast of Bermuda moving west at 6mph.

It will move between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Wednesday and Thursday, before approaching the southeastern US coast, the NHC said in an advisory.

Tropical Storm Florence has intensified into a hurricane, threatening to slam the East Coast later this week.

The storm is centered about 685 miles (1,100 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda and moving west at 7 mph (11 kph). Tropical Storm Isaac is also strengthening over the eastern tropical Atlantic and is expected to become a hurricane by late Sunday.

Helene, now classified as a tropical storm, is, according to the latest NHS advisory, expected to become a hurricane soon as well.

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A storm would normally weaken considerably if it stalled on the coast, by choking off its own energy supply as it churned over its own wake, Watson said.

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. Several computer models have come into agreement Florence will impact the Carolina coastline, with many of them taking the storm inland.

Evacuations of coastal communities began Monday and are expected to continue over the next few days. Hurricane Floyd was a Category 4 storm before it hit Florida, traveled up the coast and struck Cape Fear as a strong Category 2 storm.

Winds in Florence are now at 90 miles per hour, making it a category 1 hurricane. As NPR's Bill Chappell reported, the town of Mountain View on the Big Island recorded 51.53 inches of rain as a result of Lane, the third-highest total ever measured from a USA storm.

"North Carolina is no stranger to hurricanes", Cooper said at a press briefing, noting that previous hurricanes - Matthew in 2016, Floyd in 1999 and Fran in 1996 - brought heavy wind and rain to the entire state.

Florence is moving toward the west near 9 km/h, and this general motion is expected to continue today.

Still, it remains unclear where Florence will make landfall, and, therefore, which areas will feel the worst impact. The storm was moving west at 13 miles per hour (20 kmh).

It stated there is an "increasing risk of life threatening hazards" from storm surge and heavy rainfall but noted it was too early to determine the exact location, timing and magnitude of these impacts. Isaac's forward movement was accelerating on a path to cross into the lower Caribbean on Thursday.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's office described Florence as possibly the state's "most significant hurricane event in decades", warning of "catastrophic inland flooding, high winds and possible widespread power outages". Weakening is forecast to begin by the middle of the week as Isaac approaches the Lesser Antilles.


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