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Tropical Storm Florence is expected become a "major hurricane" Monday as it continues to approach the southeastern U.S. East Coast.

Florence is expected to become a major hurricane by Monday, the National Hurricane Center said, adding that "a rapid intensification" is forecast to begin Sunday. "On the forecast track, the center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday, and approach the coast of SC or North Carolina on Thursday".

Tropical Storm Isaac, with maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour (110 kph), was expected to grow into a Category 1 hurricane on Sunday night but weaken again as it approached the Eastern Caribbean by mid-week, on a track taking it well south of Puerto Rico, the NHC said.

The storm's center was 720 miles (1,160 km) southeast of Bermuda at 5 p.m. EDT on Sunday, and on a track to pass between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Wednesday, the NHC said.

The governors of North Carolina and SC declared states of emergency and urged people to prepare for Florence's arrival.

Officials in North Carolina were already bracing for impact.

USA residents from SC to Virginia were warned that Florence posed an increasing risk of life-threatening coastal storm surge, as well as flooding from heavy rainfall inland.

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A third storm, Hurricane Helene, was spinning in the Atlantic off West Africa's Cabo Verde Islands with 75-mph (121-kph) winds on Sunday, but did not appear to pose an immediate threat to land. "Being prepared is always the best strategy", McMaster said. People rushed to get emergency kits ready, map out escape routes, fill sandbags and secure their homes.

"Literally, they are filling buggies full of water, shopping carts full of water", Ryan Deeck, grocery department manager at a Walmart, told The Sun News.

Florence's effects were already being felt along the coast, with unsafe swells and rip currents in some spots. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency on Friday and urged residents to use the weekend to prepare.

"I'll see by Wednesday how that goes - we got over 48 hours before that happens", Cesal said. The university said Sunday that it has issued a voluntary evacuation for students starting at midday Monday, noting classes would be canceled.

In southeast Virginia, Naval Station Norfolk told its employees they should not leave their vehicles parked at the sprawling base in coming days because of the flood threat.

The Navy planned to send ships from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia out to sea.


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