Florence set to become major hurricane, aims at US Southeast

Tropical Depression Six becomes Tropical Storm Florence

Tropical Storm Florence turned into a hurricane Sunday morning and swirled toward the USA for what forecasters said could be a direct hit on the Southeast toward the end of the week.

In its 11 p.m. EDT advisory, the National Hurricane Center said "a rapid phase of intensification" was expected to begin Sunday.

On its current trajectory, winds from the hurricane could reach the southeastern United States late on Wednesday, with Florence possibly making landfall around the Carolinas on Thursday or Friday.

Tropical Storm Isaac, with maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour (110 kph), was expected to grow into a Category 1 hurricane on Sunday night but weaken again as it approached the Eastern Caribbean by mid-week, on a track taking it well south of Puerto Rico, the NHC said.

The governors of North and SC and Virginia declared states of emergency to give them time to prepare, and the Navy said ships in Virginia's Hampton Roads area would leave port for their own safety. On North Carolina's Outer Banks, the town of Nags Head posted no-swimming flags on beaches.

McMaster said he had asked President Donald Trump to declare a federal emergency in SC in anticipation of the storm's arrival.

The US military was also preparing: the Navy on Saturday told all its ships in the Hampton Roads, Virginia - home to more than a fifth of the fleet - to prepare for an order to take to sea to avoid storm damage from any storm surge or destructive winds. "Being prepared is always the best strategy", McMaster said.

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In Charleston, South Carolina, along the coast, city officials offered sandbags to residents.

Across the Southeast, people were urged to put together emergency supply kits, prepare their homes and research evacuation routes. "They're coming in and buying water and plates, and that's about all they're buying". Cooper urged residents to "review your emergency plans and gather your supplies now".

"I'll see by Wednesday how that goes - we got over 48 hours before that happens", Cesal said.

In southeast Virginia, Naval Station Norfolk told not to leave their vehicles at the sprawling base later this week because of the flood threat.

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington, near the shore, canceled its upcoming alumni weekend and all classes starting at noon Monday, encouraging its students to leave campus for a safer location. Florida-based Carnival Cruise Line re-routed its cruise ships.

Helene, meanwhile, was still in the Atlantic's spawning ground for hurricanes off the coast of Africa, swirling with 105 mph winds and forecast to become a major hurricane, about 375 miles west of the Cape Verde islands.

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