PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Hurricane and storm surge warnings are now in effect for portions of the East Coast, including the Outer Banks, as Hurricane Florence creeps closer in the Atlantic.
In an update late Tuesday night, the National Hurricane Center said Florence’s sustained winds remained at 140 mph as the storm reached about 670 miles from Cape Fear, North Carolina. Since Monday, the storms looks like it will remain farther south from the WAVY viewing than expected.
Hurricane and storm surge warnings have been issued from South Santee River, South Carolina, to Duck, North Carolina, including the Abermarle and Pamlico sounds.
Models show the storm making landfall around Wilmington, North Carolina, around noon Friday before shifting southwest toward Charleston, South Carolina, and heading inland.
The center’s 5 p.m. update extended a Tropical Storm Watch from north of the North Carolina border in Virginia to Cape Charles on the southern end of the Eastern Shore. The watch means tropical storm conditions are expected within 48 hours. Residents should prepare for heavy rainfall and flooding associated with Florence, but winds approaching hurricane-level force are not expected.
NOTE: Live coverage tracking Hurricane Florence. This feed will change throughout the day. App/mobile users can tune in here.
Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency over the weekend and issued a mandatory evacuation on Monday for the most flood-prone areas of the Tidewater region. Those living in Virginia’s Zone A began that evacuation at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
A handful of localities in Hampton Roads and the Outer Banks have issued emergency declarations.
Several school districts across the coverage area announced closures on Monday.
The watches issued by the hurricane center Tuesday covered an area just south of Charleston, South Carolina through the Virginia state line — and included the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds.
A hurricane watch means hurricane conditions are possible within the area.
Meanwhile, a storm surge watch means the possibility of life-threatening rising water moving inland from the coastline over the next 48 hours. The combination of storm surge and tide may flood Ocracoke Inlet to the North Carolina/Virginia line anywhere from 3 to 5 feet.
Live Stream: Tracking Hurricane Florence
The hurricane center said rainfall estimates from Florence could range from 15 to 20 inches across North Carolina, northern parts of South Carolina and Virginia. Some isolated areas could get up to 30 inches.
Florence was tracking to the west-northwest at 15 mph Tuesday morning. The hurricane is forecast to pick up speed over the next few days, before approaching the Carolinas.
Meteorologist Jeremy Wheeler said in his Tuesday morning blog that the track of Florence shows expected landfall between Wilmington and Morehead City. Florence is now expected to arrive on land early Friday.
South Carolina’s governor ordered the state’s entire coastline evacuated starting at noon Tuesday and predicted that 1 million people would flee as highways reverse directions. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said his state is “in the bullseye” and urged people to “get ready now.”
The very center of that bullseye may be Camp Lejeune, the sprawling Marine Corps training base. Tuesday’s 7-day rainfall forecast showed 20 inches or more falling there, part of a wide swath of rainfall that could total ten inches or more over much of Virginia and drench the nation’s capital. Some isolated areas could get 30 inches, forecasters said.
Florence could hit the Carolinas harder than any hurricane since Hazel packed 130 mph winds in 1954. That Category 4 storm destroyed 15,000 buildings and 19 people in North Carolina. In the six decades since then, many thousands of people have moved to the coast.
The storm’s potential path also includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous hog farms that store animal waste in massive open-air lagoons.
Airlines, including American, Southwest, Delta and JetBlue, have begun letting affected passengers change travel plans without the usual fees.
10 On Your Side will have latest Hurricane Florence forecast updates on air and online.