As Hurricane Florence was officially declared a Category 4 storm on Monday by the National Hurricane Center, weather experts warned people living in vulnerable areas in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia that the intensification should not be ignored and to begin making preparations for what could be a devastating landfall later this week.
According to the noon-time update from the NHC, operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Florence currently has sustained winds of nearly 130 mph and has no become what the agency considers "a major hurricane."
NEW: Florence is now a category 4 hurricane. Data from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter indicate that Florence has continued to rapidly strengthen and has maximum sustained winds near 130 mph (195 km/h) and a minimum central pressure of 946 mb (27.93 inches) https://t.co/tW4KeGdBFb pic.twitter.com/wfLt6fJPl2
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 10, 2018
Though no coastal advisories are yet in place, the update said that those warnings would likely be forthcoming. Now tracking in the Atlantic Ocean southeast of the U.S. mainland, "A turn toward the northwest is forecast to occur late Wednesday night," the latest NHC dispatch stated. "On the forecast track, the center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday, and approach the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday."
Holy... Florence is a beast. pic.twitter.com/MLJ55ALgpu
— Dakota Smith (@weatherdak) September 10, 2018
In response to the upgrade, meteorologists and weather-trackers warned people to pay attention to future developments.
A Life-threatening storm surge is becoming more likely along the coastline of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, and a Storm Surge Watch will likely be issued for portions of these areas by Tuesday morning.
— NHC_Surge (@NHC_Surge) September 10, 2018
"Folks, if you are in the Carolinas or Virginia -- this is a historic storm," declared Eric Holthaus, meteorologist and journalist who writes about extreme weather and climate change for Grist. "Take every available precaution. Help your neighbors. Do not underestimate this hurricane."
And Holthaus warned that Florence could well turn into a Category 5:
those last few frames tho...
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) September 10, 2018
The pressure at the center of #HurricaneFlorence dropped 40 millibars in the last 24 hours. That's...a lot, very fast. Now is the time for those of us outside the danger area to be marshaling the resources and aid people in the Carolinas are going to require pic.twitter.com/uIbyMVSOeH
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) September 10, 2018