Trains canceled, airlines waiving fees as East Coast braces for Hurricane Florence

Trains canceled, airlines waiving fees as East Coast braces for Hurricane Florence

"This is one of the worst storms to hit the East Coast in many years", President Donald Trump warned on Twitter.

By the time it reaches the US mainland, the NHC says Florence will strengthen into "an extremely unsafe major hurricane".

Kevin Orth loads sandbags into cars as he helps residents prepare for Hurricane Florence, in Charleston, South Carolina.

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington has also ordered a mandatory evacuation of students while the governor of Virginia has asked residents of low-lying coastal areas to leave.

Hurricane Harvey killed 68 people and caused catastrophic flooding in Houston, while Hurricane Irma caused 129 storm-related deaths in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. By Monday morning, the hurricane center classified Florence as a "major" Category 3 hurricane, with sustained winds of at least 111 miles per hour.

Winds of tropical storm force could reach Puerto Rico Thursday evening.

Florence is approximately 410 miles south of Bermuda and 975 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, as of 5 a.m. ET, according to the NHC.

Florence strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane on Monday.

Florence's centre was expected to move over the Atlantic Ocean between the Bahamas and Bermuda on Tuesday and Wednesday before approaching North and SC on Thursday.

The center is predicting "tropical force winds" - in the 39 to 73 mph range - would reach the coast by late Wednesday and move inland within 24 hours.

"We do not want to risk one SC life in this hurricane", Governor Henry McMaster told a news conference.

Helene is a Category 2 storm that's even farther off the coast than both of the other storms, but it's not expected to ever make landfall. That Category 4 storm destroyed 15,000 buildings and 19 people in North Carolina.

A warm ocean is the fuel that powers hurricanes, and Florence will be moving over waters where temperatures are peaking near 85 degrees, hurricane specialist Eric Blake wrote.

The NHC said: "Recent satellite imagery shows that the eye of Florence has become cloud filled and an earlier 0441 UTC microwave overpass revealed a double eyewall structure".

What is the path of the hurricane?

Preparations for Florence were intensifying up and down the densely populated coast.

Further to the east, forecasters are also watching hurricanes Isaac and Helene.

With current forecasts showing that Hurricane Florence will make landfall in North Carolina this week, the state got some important news. Still, the storm would produce flooding rains across a large part of the U.S. South, expanding the damage, according to Enki Research's Watson.

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