Hurricane Helene strengthens over the eastern Atlantic Ocean: NHC

"Florence is expected to be an extremely risky major hurricane through Thursday", the NHC said in a bulletin. "These tropical storms and hurricanes are very risky".

Mandatory evacuation orders also were issued for more than 300,000 people in North Carolina and Virginia.

Gov. Roy Cooper declared North Carolina under a state of emergency last Friday. Its center will move between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday and approach the coast of SC or North Carolina on Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said.

The Center projects wind speed will continue to increase, potentially elevating Florence to a Category 5.

Connie Binot, who owns the Cuthbert House Inn in Beaufort, S.C., said she will lose a lot of business because of the evacuation order and has no idea when it will be lifted.

Beyond the damage from wind and high surf, Hurricane Florence is predicted to slow over the Carolinas where it may dump up to 30 inches of rain over much of North and SC. That Category 4 storm destroyed 15,000 buildings and killed 19 people in North Carolina.

"We do not want to risk one SC life in this hurricane", Governor Henry McMaster told a news conference.

The National Hurricane Centre has warned of "life-threatening" storm surges along the south-eastern seaboard and freshwater flooding due to a "prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event".

The National Hurricane Center says a new report from an Air Force Reserve Unit hurricane hunter aircraft indicates that Hurricane Florence's top sustained winds have decreased slightly to 130 miles per hour (215 kph), with higher gusts. She said it was built in 2009 in Buxton, North Carolina, up on a ridge, and made to withstand a hurricane.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 25 miles (35 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 90 miles (150 km). Any Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricane is classified as a major hurricane.

"We could cover several states easily with the cloud cover alone", Graham said. It was a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm but was expected to keep drawing energy from the warm water and intensify to near Category 5, which means winds of 157 miles per hour (253 kph) or higher.

"This is going to be big", said Victoria Oliva, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington said early Monday morning.

Isaac is a Category 1 hurricane that's blowing winds between 74-95 miles per hour.

Hurricane Isaac - which late Sunday became the fifth hurricane of the season - is heading west towards the Caribbean.

Areas near where the eye moves inland will likely see catastrophic storm surge and 120-140mph winds.

  • Joey Payne