PORTSMOUTH, Va. (CNN/WAVY) — Hurricane Florence is still way out in the Atlantic, but the tropical storm could threaten the U.S. East Coast by late next week.
The first major hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic season, Florence on Thursday had maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Florence had been as strong as a Category 4 hurricane before it started to weaken to a tropical storm.
The hurricane center said Thursday was moving to the northwest at 10 mph. Florence is expected to move to the west-northwest and west at decreased speeds through Saturday.
By early next week, Florence is forecast to start moving faster to the west-northwest. The storm is likely to reintensify over the weekend.
The European and American computer models showed a menacing hurricane coming dangerously close late next week to North Carolina’s Outer Banks or the mid-Atlantic region, a significant shift westward from earlier model runs. Other predictions, though, showed Florence staying 500 miles offshore.
The storm’s track will depend on the development and movement of a number of weather systems as the storm gets steered by a large ridge of high pressure in the Eastern United States and northern Atlantic Ocean, as well as the progress of a low-pressure trough across the country.
#GOESEast saw Hurricane #Florence spinning in the open Atlantic Ocean this morning. The Cat. 3 storm is the first major #hurricane in the Atlantic this year, but currently not a threat to land. See more: https://t.co/Yg4cRXhG5n pic.twitter.com/XTv6BSCZJS— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) September 5, 2018
So, while it’s certainly not time to press the panic button — the models likely will change significantly over the next week to 10 days — Florence definitely bears watching closely.
Even if Florence stays out to sea, models show numerous other systems developing over the Atlantic, almost on cue as the hurricane season hits its peak on Sept. 10. The eight weeks around that date often are prime time for the conditions that fuel powerful storms.
The focus on Florence comes less than a day after Tropical Storm Gordon made landfall on the US Gulf Coast, leaving one child dead and ushering storms through Monday across the western South and the Midwest.