Florence expected to become major hurricane, risk to East Coast increasing

Several potential storms are heading West from Africa as the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season continues

Swells from Florence are forecast to begin reaching beaches locally and all along the U.S. East Coast this weekend, generating life-threatening surf and rip currents, with rough surf and large breaking waves possible by the middle of next week.

"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.

But as a precaution, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday issued a state of emergency so that farmers could harvest and move crops more quickly, waiving certain transportation restrictions.

The National Hurricane Center said Florence's maximum sustained winds Friday evening were estimated to be 65 miles per hour. The storm is expected to approach the southeast U.S. Coast on Thursday.

Florence is still sitting in an area of significant wind shear, which has kept the storm from strengthening. On the forecast track, the center of Florence will move over the warm waters of the southwestern Atlantic Ocean through Wednesday.

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Wind shear will lessen over the weekend, and Florence should regain major hurricane intensity (Category 3 or greater) by early next week - as the storm moves northwest, getting closer to the United States coastline by the day. "Interests near and along the U.S. East Coast should monitor the progress of Florence through the weekend and ensure they have their hurricane plans in place". Gradual strengthening is forecast and Florence could become a hurricane again over the weekend.

Meanwhile, two low pressure systems off the coast of Africa behind Florence also had high chances of developing into tropical storms, forecasters said. It has maximum sustained winds of 45 miles per hour, and was moving to the west at 13 miles per hour. Helene will pass close to or perhaps over the southernmost Cabo Verde Islands Saturday night and Sunday.

At the same time - the third system - Tropical Storm Helene is expected to become a hurricane on Sunday. A gradual turn toward the west-northwest with an increase in forward speed is expected early next week.

Forecasters said it was too early to tell where Florence will go. It was more than 1,700 miles from the eastern-most Caribbean islands early Saturday.

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