ATLANTA (AP) — As Hurricane Florence heads toward the East Coast, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington is encouraging its students to leave campus this week for a safer location.
The university said Sunday that it has issued a voluntary evacuation for students starting at noon Monday. Students are urged — but not required — to leave and classes are being canceled. A university statement says officials will continue monitoring the forecast and may make an evactuation mandatory if conditions later require.
The National Hurricane Center says it is still too early to predict the storms exact path with the storm hundreds of miles (kilometers) away, but people from the Carolinas to the Mid-Atlantic are being urged to remain on guard for a possible direct hit later in the week.
Forecasters are warning that the threat is rising of life-threatening storm surge and freshwater inland flooding from prolonged heavy rains once Hurricane Florence nears the Southeast seaboard in coming days.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Florence is expected to become a major hurricane Monday and remain extremely dangerous and powerful as it nears the U.S. Atlantic coast on Thursday. While forecasters say it’s too soon to determine the exact timing and a possible landfall for the storm, people from South Carolina to the mid-Atlantic region should closely monitor the approaching storm.
The center says Florence is expected to strengthen further as it moves over the southwester Atlantic between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday. It says the hurricane should approach the U.S. coast on Thursday.
The National Hurricane Center says Florence is expected to become a major hurricane within a day as it crawls closer to the U.S. Atlantic seaboard.
The Miami-based center says Florence is gaining strength and is expected to become a major hurricane Monday and keep that status as a powerful and extremely dangerous storm until Thursday. At 5 p.m. EDT Sunday, Florence had top sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph) and was centered about 720 miles (1,160 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda while moving westward at 7 mph (11 kph).
The center says it is still too early to predict the hurricane’s exact path, but a huge coastal area from northern Florida to North Carolina has been urged to remain on guard for the possibility of a hit by Florence as a major hurricane. Forecasters say
Naval Station Norfolk says its employees should not leave their vehicles parked at the sprawling Virginia base in coming days because of the possibility of flooding from approaching Hurricane Florence.
The station, the largest naval complex in the world, said in a Facebook post that much of the base is prone to heavy flooding, especially the parking lots adjacent to the waterfront. It posted photos showing heavy flooding from previous storms.
Florence turned into a hurricane Sunday morning and was swirling toward the U.S. for what forecasters said could be a direct hit on the Southeast toward the end of the week. The National Hurricane Center says it’s still too early to predict the storm’s exact path.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Saturday, saying it was becoming increasingly likely that the state could see significant impacts.
South Carolina’s governor says residents should count on “a lot of wind and a lot of rain” from Hurricane Florence this week.
Gov. Henry McMaster told a news conference Sunday that people should “pretend, assume, presume that a major hurricane is going to hit right smack dab in the middle of South Carolina and is going to go way inshore.”
The National Hurricane Center says Florence could make landfall by Friday in the Southeast U.S. and that residents from South Carolina to the mid-Atlantic need to get ready.
In South Carolina, Charleston city officials were offering sandbags for residents to fill. Meanwhile, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune urged residents to secure their homes, but said it’s too early to know if evacuations will be ordered.
Cruise lines are redirecting their ships to avoid the path of Hurricane Florence as it begins to bear down on the United States.
Carnival Cruise Line said Sunday that it had changed the schedule of its cruise ships to accommodate tropical weather threats. Carnival Pride was scheduled to leave Baltimore and head to Bermuda during a week-long cruise. Instead the ship will now head to The Bahamas.
The company also said that Carnival Horizon has cancelled plans to visit San Juan in Puerto Rico on Sunday. It is expected to arrive in New York on Sept. 13.
In addition, in order to avoid Tropical Storm Isaac, the cruise line reversed the schedule for Carnival Vista. The ship will call on St. Maarten, St. Kitts, San Juan and Amber Cove before returning to Miami on September 16.