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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Florence is now a Category 4 hurricane thanks to rapid intensification over the last 24 hours. The storm currently sits 625 miles southeast of Bermuda with current forecast tracks keeping well south of the island.
The storm is forecast to strengthen to near Category 5 status by Tuesday evening.
Florence has continued its west-northwest path but its surface speed has picked up a bit as it now is moving 9 mph. In the coming days the forward speed is expected to pick up even more, before a ridge of high pressure which will develop over the Ohio River Valley and northeast U.S. slows the system down as it approaches the east coast later this week.
Based on the current forecast track, Florence will be passing over extremely warm water in the western Atlantic over the next few days. The surface temperature of this ocean water in this part of the Atlantic is close to 84 degrees which is 2 degrees above normal for this time of year. These warm waters, coupled with favorable upper level atmospheric conditions, will aid to the continued rapid intensification of Florence over the next 12 to 24 hours, when it will likely become a major hurricane, Category 3 or higher, for the second time in the storm’s life cycle. Even beyond the 24-hour forecast period, intensification is likely to continue and we should be looking at an extremely powerful storm system as it closes in on the east coast of the United States.
While the exact details as to where and when Florence could impact the U.S. are still a bit uncertain, the picture has become clearer over the last couple of model runs. Based on current model projections, the most likely area for direct impacts from Florence are along the coast of the Carolinas. However, due to the unpredictability still within the model runs this far out the exact placement of the storm is still very much uncertain. With that being said, if you have any interests in the southeast — family, friends, property, etc. — the time is now to take preventive measures to protect those interests. As for the timing of a potential landfall, it is looking like a late week event for the southeast coastline. The most likely timing based on current model runs would place a potential landfall anywhere from late on Thursday into early Friday, with the highest probability in the overnight hours on Thursday. Direct impacts from Florence along the southeast coast could range anywhere from life-threatening storm surge, especially along the immediate coastline, to freshwater flooding thanks to heavy rainfall. Extremely strong, hurricane force winds would also be expected.
As for impacts in the mid-Atlantic and especially here along the beaches of New Jersey and Delaware, we are likely looking at more indirect impacts than anything else. However, there is still a chance for nasty weather and dangerous conditions along the immediate coast, depending on the eventual placement of the storm. Effects from Florence along the coastlines of New Jersey and Delaware at this time would likely be as follows: strong winds, high/rough surf, dangerous rip currents, coastal flooding and beach erosion. These indirect impacts have the highest probability of happening right now based on current projections.
When it comes to direct impacts from outer rain and thunderstorm bands from Florence, the chances for that are lower than the indirect impacts along the coast. If we were to see any direct outer rain bands from this system it would likely come at the end of the week in the Friday/weekend time-frame and the highest chance to see those bands would be in the southern half of the region, i.e. Jersey Shore points and Delaware. However, the eventual placement of the system and its potential landfall will be the ultimate deciding factor on if we see any of the outer bands in our area.
Make sure to stay with the Eyewitness Weather Team as this system continues to unfold over the next week.