Published 10:48 AM EDT Sep 8, 2018
Tropical Storm Florence, now spinning some 1,500 miles from North Carolina's Outer Banks, appears headed for a direct hit somewhere along the East Coast next week as a major hurricane.
Meanwhile, the remnants of what was Tropical Storm Gordon will soak portions of the Midwest and East on Saturday and into Sunday, likely leading to widespread and dangerous flooding.
"Many areas in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana will continue to see a risk of flooding during the day Saturday," said AccuWeather meteorologist Ryan Adamson. Some spots could see a half-foot of rain over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.
Over 50 million people live where a flood watch or warning is in effect, mainly in the Midwest and in Texas.
As for Florence, the National Hurricane Center said Saturday morning that "gradual restrengthening is forecast over the weekend, and Florence is expected to become a hurricane again by Sunday and a major hurricane early next week."
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency Friday evening. Cooper said it’s “too early” to know where the storm will go, but residents should use the weekend to prepare for the possibility of a natural disaster.
As of Saturday morning, Florence had winds of 65 mph and was moving to the west at 9 mph. The center of the storm was about 840 miles southeast of Bermuda.
The latest forecast shows Florence nearing the U.S. East Coast as a Category 4 hurricane with 145 mph winds on Tuesday. A Category 4 hurricane can cause power outages that last for weeks to possibly months, the hurricane center said. If the hurricane makes landfall with those winds – which is possible but not certain – "most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months."
Heavy rain could also cause catastrophic flooding well inland from where the storm makes landfall, which is possible anywhere from Florida to New England, AccuWeather said.
The Weather Channel said that "all interests along the U.S. East Coast from Florida to New England should monitor closely the forecast of Florence. If you live in a hurricane-prone location, make sure you have a preparedness plan in place now, before any watches or warnings are issued."
The hurricane center warned that "swells generated by Florence are affecting Bermuda and will reach portions of the U.S. East Coast over the weekend. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions."
Two other systems, Tropical Storm Helene and Tropical Depression Nine, are also spinning in central and eastern Pacific Ocean. While Helene may not affect land, the tropical depression is forecast to strengthen to Hurricane Isaac and potentially hit the Caribbean later next week.
Contributing: The Associated Press