The governors of North and SC and Virginia declared states of emergency to give them time to prepare, and the Navy said ships in Virginia's Hampton Roads area would leave port for their own safety. If the strength continue to rise, Florence will be one of just three storms in the records to have winds of 150 miles-per-hour this far north, said Phil Klotzbach, a Colorado State University hurricane researcher.
Florence may make landfall anywhere from New England to the Carolinas as soon as Thursday as a Category 3 or higher hurricane.
"All indications are that Florence will be an extremely unsafe Category 4 hurricane while it moves over the western Atlantic toward the southeastern United States", the hurricane center said.
Although it is quite a distance away, swells generated by Florence will begin to affect Bermuda Saturday, and Florida along with most of the East Coast of the USA will see increasing waves and rip currents this weekend.
Swells generated by Florence could cause unsafe rip currents and coastal flooding on Saturday in areas including coastal DE and New Jersey, the National Weather Service said.
As of the 11 a.m. Saturday advisory, Florence had maximum sustained winds of 65 miles per hour and was moving to the west at 7 miles per hour.
Huge Hurricane Florence Looms Large in New Views from Space
No doubt evacuation orders will continue over the next few days for cities and town up and down the Coastline in those areas. Hurricane Florence is the first of what looks like could be a trio of storms to hit the United States in rapid succession.
Meanwhile, the two other tropical storms in the Atlantic - Florence and Helen - are expected to become hurricanes today. While Helene is forecast to slide out to sea away from land, Isaac is a very real threat in the Caribbean later this week, the hurricane center said.
It's not really a question of whether Florence will hit the Carolinas. "If you see a business taking advantage of this storm, please let my office know so we can hold them accountable", Stein said.
Officials in North Carolina were already bracing for impact. The South Carolina governor ordered the states entire coastline to be evacuated starting at noon Tuesday and predicted that 1 million people would flee.
Meteorologist Eric Holthaus warned on Twitter that it could become one of the worst storms in U.S. history.
Hurricane Hunter Aircraft have been flying through Florence all morning long, and as of 8 a.m. have found the storm to have weakened slightly. The U.S. Fleet Forces Command said in a news release Saturday that the ships will get ready in anticipation of getting under way Monday to avoid storm damage.
And a third tropical storm has formed in the eastern Atlantic Ocean.
The Navy said all ships in Virginia's coastal Hampton Roads area were preparing to leave port for open seas.