Hurricane Florence continues to be a dangerous Category 4 storm as it steams toward the U.S. East Coast, but a new wrinkle in the Gulf could affect its path.
It's too early to know for sure, but a disturbance in the Gulf could form into Tropical Storm Joyce and potentially push Florence's track northward -- good news for many parts of North Carolina.
That's just a possibility at this point, according to Chief Meteorologist Chris Hohmann.
At 11 p.m., the storm's center was located about 465 miles south-southeast of Bermuda and about 1,085 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear. Florence hasn't intensified, and remains a Cat 4 but could be close to Category 5 strength by Tuesday. A Category 5 storm has the potential to cause catastrophic damage. Maximum sustained winds were clocked at 140 mph.
The storm was moving west-northwest at 13 mph, and the track adjusted slightly to the north.
Since reliable record-keeping began more than 150 years ago, North Carolina has been hit by only one Category 4 hurricane: Hazel, with 130 mph winds, in 1954.
ABC11 will have live, team coverage from the coast all week to bring you the latest on the storm
For many, the challenge could be finding a safe refuge: If Florence slows to a crawl just off the coast, it could carry torrential rains up into the Appalachian mountains, causing flash floods, mudslides and other dangerous weather across a wide area.
National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham warned that Florence was forecast to slow down significantly and linger over the Carolinas once it reaches shore, dropping heavy rainfall as far as West Virginia. People living well inland should prepare to lose power and anticipate flooding and other hazards, he warned.
"It's not just the coast," Graham said. "When you stall a system like this and it moves real slow, some of that rainfall can extend well away from the center."
Hurricane Florence remains a dangerous Category 4 with 140 maximum-sustained winds, and its track has shifted slightly north. A disturbance in the Gulf could form Tropical Storm Joyce and potentially knock Florence off its current path.
President Donald Trump has approved North Carolina and South Carolina emergency declarations.
"The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in all 100 North Carolina counties and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians," the president's declaration said.
J. Cole's inaugural Dreamville Festival has been canceled ahead of concerns about Hurricane Florence. "With the current weather-related information at hand, we have together decided to cancel this year's event for the ultimate safety of both the local citizens and festival attendees," the festival's site announced. Dreamville recently announced the lineup for this year's show.
SPARKCon, which was supposed to be in Raleigh this weekend, has been postponed.
With max winds at 140 mph, Hurricane Florence continues to grow in size and strength.
N.C. State will suspend normal operations beginning at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, lasting through 5 p.m. Sunday. There will be no classes after 5 p.m. on Wednesday, and no classes Thursday or Friday of this week.
Chief Meteorlogist Chris Hohmann we're still looking at a potential Category 4 hurricane striking the N.C. coast late Thursday into Friday. Damage on the coast would be catastrophic from the storm surge. If Florence goes inland and stalls as projected, somebody is going to get a ton of rain, up to 15 or more inches. Damaging winds Thursday could gust to hurricane force in spots. Power outages, trees down, Isolated tornadoes, are all possible.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump will be briefed Monday by phone and in person Tuesday by FEMA administrator Brock Long and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. She also said the White House has been in touch with local authorities regarding approaching storms multiple states and U.S. territories since Saturday morning.
ECU classes scheduled to start after 12 p.m. Tuesday are canceled; no classes remainder of week; faculty/staff see http://ecu.edu/alert for conditions.
Evacuations have been ordered for parts of North Carolina, including Hatteras Island.
Damaging winds and flooding rain are also possible inland, which could cause life-threatening conditions across the Triangle.
Many areas in North Carolina could receive up to 10 inches of rain.
During a news conference, Governor Roy Cooper said North Carolina was is in the "bullseye" of the storm and that it was rapidly getting stronger.
He said Florence will present three threats to the state:
- Ocean surge from our coast
- Strong winds that may be higher than we have recently experienced
- Inland flooding
On Sunday, emergency management teams and first responders were spread out across the state, including 200 National Guard troops, working around the clock to get prepared for Florence's impact.
Cooper is still encouraging people across the state to get ready.
"One thing we know is that the people of North Carolina are resilient," he said. "We will get through this."
Cooper has already asked President Trump for a disaster declaration on behalf of the state, so we can get federal help as soon as possible.
Watch: Director of National Hurricane Center, Big Weather talk Hurricane Florence
What you can do now
Be vigilant about the progress of Florence and start thinking now about how you will prepare for a potential hurricane later this week.
The best way to do that is by talking with your family about your hurricane plan and have your hurricane kit packed and ready to go.
Also, don't forget about your four-legged friends. Be sure to have a kit ready for them, containing any medications, foods, and stress blankets that they may need.
Many started their hurricane preparations Sunday as water and other basic necessities started flying off of grocery store shelves.
Before Florence arrives, a frontal boundary lifts back northward Monday allowing warmer air to surge back into the area after a cooler than average Sunday.
A few showers and thunderstorms are likely to pop up during the afternoon with the high humidity in place.