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Tropical Storm Florence is expected to restrengthen into a major hurricane before threatening US

(National Hurricane Center)

More and more, Florence is looking like a storm that may give the US East Coast problems as a potentially major hurricane next week.

Tropical Storm Florence, currently in the Atlantic about 1,500 miles from the coast, is expected to strengthen into a hurricane by Sunday, and continue gaining power for days.

And computer models increasingly are showing it could be dangerously close to the United States late Thursday. The window for the storm to miss the US coast and turn harmlessly back to sea is closing, CNN forecasters said

“The models are … really starting to favor a landfall around the Carolinas,” though states to the north should watch as well, CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar said Saturday morning.

“If you live anywhere in this region (from the Carolinas to the Mid-Atlantic), pay very close attention to this storm.”

North Carolina already is on alert. Gov. Roy Cooper issued a state of emergency Friday and waived certain transportation restrictions so that farmers could harvest and move crops more quickly.

Cooper also urged people to learn what evacuation routes to take, and put fuel in their vehicles in case they’re ordered to leave.

“Action today can avoid losses due to Florence,” he said.

Why Florence is expected to strengthen

Florence already had been the first major hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic season earlier this week, but wind shear weakened it to a tropical storm.

On Saturday morning, Florence’s center had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph.

But the shear is abating and the storm is approaching warmer waters — conditions that could allow Florence to become a hurricane by Sunday and a major hurricane — meaning a Category 3 storm or greater — by Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Florence’s first impact to Bermuda and the US East Coast could start this weekend with large swells, potentially causing dangerous surf conditions and rip currents.

Two other storms brewing

Behind Florence is two other storms that the National Hurricane Center is monitoring.

Tropical Depression Nine is expected to become a tropical storm later Saturday — and a hurricane by early next week — over the eastern tropical Atlantic. It was more than 1,700 miles from the eastern-most Caribbean islands early Saturday.

Behind it is Tropical Storm Helene, which is expected to pass close to the Cabo Verde Islands off West Africa on Saturday night and become a hurricane Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said.

The three cyclones — Florence, Tropical Depression Nine and Helene — come right before the Atlantic hurricane season hits its peak Monday. The eight weeks around that date often are prime time for the conditions that fuel powerful storms.