Florence became the first major hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic season this past Wednesday, reaching Category 4 status with maximum sustained winds peaking at 130 miles per hour.
Winds will begin hitting the Carolina coast 8 p.m. Wednesday and the middle of the two states by 8 a.m. Thursday, NOAA says.
The state of SC also declared a state of emergency on Saturday. SC governor Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency on Saturday, in order to give his state time to prepare for the possible arrival of a hurricane.
The governors of Virginia, North Carolina and SC have declared states of emergency. The storm is traveling over warm water, and is expected to increase its speed and become a hurricane Saturday night.
The storm could cause risky surf and rip currents along parts of the USA east coast across the weekend as it swirls across the Atlantic, followed by tropical depression Nine.
Florence's maximum sustained winds Friday evening were estimated to be 105 km/h, with the storm centred about 1457km east-southeast of Bermuda and moving west at 13km/h.
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Regardless of where it makes landfall, Loewenthal said the area should prepare to see impacts, including rough surf and risky rip currents, as early as Sunday.
"While it's still too early to know the storm's path, we know we have to be prepared", he said in a written statement.
Florence was a Category 4 hurricane last week, the first of the 2018 Atlantic season.
The Ohio Valley ridge is concerning because Florence could stop moving pretty quickly around day 5, potentially leading to a serious heavy rain episode and inland flood hazard.
The projected Forecast Track for Tropical Storm Florence as of Saturday morning at 11 a.m.
The US military was also preparing: the Navy on Saturday told all its ships in the Hampton Roads, Virginia - home to more than a fifth of the fleet - to prepare for an order to take to sea to avoid storm damage from any storm surge or destructive winds.
The NHC said the vast storm had maximum sustained winds of almost 75 miles per hour (120 kph), reaching up to 125 miles from its center, as it tracked west-northwestward across the western Atlantic.
"But anyone living on the East Coast should place close attention in the next few days to where this storm goes and what it does. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions". "This means that Florence is likely to be a very powerful hurricane as it moves over the western Atlantic toward the southeastern United States".