Strengthening Hurricane Florence blasts toward U.S. East Coast

Here's what David Epstein is saying about Hurricane Florence

Got your hurricane plan ready?

Florence is officially a hurricane churning off the Eastern U.S. and the latest tracks have shifted to a bit north, but South Carolinians should continue to prepare for a major storm headed toward our shores, state officials said Sunday.

On top of Irma and Maria, powerful category 4 hurricane Harvey inflicted $125billion worth of damage, mostly from catastrophic flooding in Houston, Texas, between August and September previous year.

In the Pacific, Tropical Storm Olivia is set to sweep through the Hawaiian islands Tuesday, where tropical storm watches have been posted.

As of 11 a.m. Monday, Florence was located about 580 south, southeast of Bermuda.

By Tuesday night, it is projected to be almost a Category 5 storm with winds near 150 miles per hour.

The National Hurricane Center said Saturday the storm was expected to become a "major hurricane" by Tuesday as it passes between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday. The storm is slowly moving northwest into the Gulf of Mexico.

Local impacts from Florence are not expected, according to the National Weather Service Tallahassee. Further inland there will be a major threat from wind and flooding.

Pro-government offensive continues in Syria's Idlib province
The Observatory said the clashes left 10 government security personnel and seven Kurdish fighters dead. About 2,000 US troops are now operating in Syria, a lot of them in the eastern region of the country.

"Weakening is forecast to begin by the middle of the week as Isaac approaches the Lesser Antilles", the NHC said, urging residents in the Windward Islands - Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines - to pay particular attention to the storm.

Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 15 miles. One high altitude jet, nicknamed Gonzo, has been flying through the storm to collect information over the weekend.

Forecasters with the National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm is moving west-northwest at 13 miles per hour, packing maximum sustained winds of 85 miles per hour. Landfall along the east coast is possible late Thursday or early Friday. With some potentially higher wind shear, it is not expected to strengthen, but it could bring quite a bit more rain to all of the Texas coastline. But small storms tend to grow and shrink more rapidly than large storms.

With September fulfilling the promises of peak hurricane season, residents are reminded to take the appropriate precautions for hurricane season - such as having emergency kits ready and knowing your hurricane plan - even if the storms are not now projected to hit Northwest Florida.

Florence crossed the 74 miles per hour threshold from tropical storm to a hurricane Sunday morning, and by evening its winds were up to 85 miles per hour (140 kph).

Today was another day of plentiful heat and humidity, but the forecast will take a more soggy turn Monday.

Showers and thunderstorms over the northwestern Caribbean Sea and western Cuba, associated with a surface trough, are showing some signs of organization (marked as an orange "X" in the above map).

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