Hurricane Florence has rapidly strengthened to become a major storm, and the hurricane center says more intensification is anticipated. The storm's winds had increased to 140 miles per hour by Monday afternoon.
Navy spokeswoman Alana Garas said the ships will disembark Monday from naval bases including the world's largest in Norfolk.
"On the forecast track, the center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday and approach the southeastern coast of the United States on Thursday", the NHC said Sunday.
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McMaster said he had asked President Donald Trump to declare a federal emergency in SC in anticipation of the storm's arrival.
The last Category 4 storm to hit the Carolinas was Hugo, which barreled into Charleston, South Carolina, in 1989. Once winds in Florence increase to 96 miles per hour, it will be a category 2 hurricane.
A hurricane hunter plane found Florence strengthening quickly after it became a hurricane Sunday. Smithfield Foods Inc., the No. 1 hog producer, and chicken producer Sanderson Farms Inc. saw their North Carolina operations disrupted in 2016 due to flooding from Hurricane Matthew.
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As of noon EDT, Florence was centered about 575 miles (925 kilometers) south-southeast of Bermuda, moving west at 13 mph (20 kph).
Dare County has a year-round population of more than 30,000, but the population balloons during tourist seasons. It was not immediately clear how many people were being evacuated.
The U.S. military said it was sending an advance team to Raleigh, North Carolina, to coordinate with federal and state partners.
Schools and county offices in 26 of the state's 46 counties will be closed starting Tuesday. A total of 177 health-care facilities, including 19 hospitals, also are being evacuated.
Concerns about the monster storm extended even into Virginia.
Exactly where Florence will track is largely depended on an area of high pressure that is expected to expand north of the system. The evacuation zone includes the most flood-prone coastal areas, Northam said.
"I don't think many of us have ever been through a Category 4".
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This is the latest "cone of uncertainty", which shows an area where the center of the storm could go, when and how strong it might be at the given time.
As Hurricane Florence approaches the East Coast, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington encouraged its students to leave campus for a safer location.
The NHC said Sunday Florence has the potential to be a major, risky storm. Once winds reach 111 miles per hour, it will be a category 3 (major) hurricane.
"Take mid-August to mid-October, that period accounts for 87% of category 1 and 2 hurricane days and a staggering 96% of "major" hurricane days - (Categories 3, 4 and 5)", he said.
"These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip currents", the hurricane center said. Even before the evacuation order, Dare County emergency officials warned that rough seas and strong rip currents already were creating unsafe conditions. The state's emergency management agency said it is "preparing for the possibility of a large-scale disaster". Rivers are high, and the storm will be moving slowly when it arrives, exacerbating the danger, Rossi told USA TODAY. The wind field is expected to keep growing, which will increase the storm surge and inland wind threats, the service said in a statement.
Many newcomers have moved to the coast in the almost 19 years since the last strong hurricane - Floyd - threatened the area.
Maps of the storm's trajectory showed it most likely to hit the North Carolina shore near the SC border, making it the most powerful storm to threaten the USA mainland this year and the first of its magnitude in 29 years to strike the Carolinas.
‘Extremely dangerous’ Hurricane Florence expected to hit East Coast later this week
Dare County Emergency Management told residents and visitors to evacuate Hatteras Island by Tuesday at noon. Such swells can lead to unsafe surf and rip currents, the NHC warned.
Cooper told residents on Monday to get ready to be without power for an extended period. The sooner preparations are completed, the better. While Helene's outlook calls for it to head into the open Atlantic, Isaac will probably hit the Caribbean's Lesser Antilles Islands Thursday and potentially brush Puerto Rico, still recovering from last year's Maria, as a strong tropical storm later.