UPDATED: Hurricane Florence strengthens; Helene becomes a hurricane and Isaac could become one too

By Sun-Sentinel

A satellite view of the Atlantic tropical region on Sept. 9, 2018. Florence is seen at top, center, while Isaac and Helene are also seen closer to Africa. (NOAA)

(SUN-SENTINEL) — This weekend’s weather made it clear that we’ve reached peaked hurricane season — two are churning in the Atlantic while a third is expected by Monday.

Hurricane Florence is on course for landfall later this week in the Carolinas. The expected major hurricane could bring high surf and dangerous rip currents to the eastern U.S., including Florida’s east coast, until the end of the week.

The highest surfs will rise on Palm Beach County waters, the hurricane center said.

Hurricane Helene, upgraded from a tropical storm Sunday afternoon, had winds clocked at 75 mph. The weather service estimates that the storm will take a sharp north turn into the middle of the Atlantic later in the week.

Tropical Storm Issac’s maximum sustained winds of 70 mph were just below the hurricane threshold of 74 mph. The forecast has Issac plunging westward into the Caribbean by Wednesday night or Thursday, well south of Florida and Cuba.

To have this many storms simultaneously in the Atlantic is not at all unusual for this time of year, meteorologists say. September is the peak month for tropical weather — and Sept. 10 is the statistical peak day, said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for the National Hurricane Center.

“We’ve seen this many times in the past,” said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for the National Hurricane Center. He noted that last year, Irma, Jose and Katia all were active at the same time.

The hurricane center predicted between nine and 13 named storms this season, four to seven of which would be hurricanes. The 2018 season has seen nine named storms so far and ends Nov. 30.

Florence’s strongest winds were measuring 85 mph, with a possible landfall as a major hurricane happening Thursday. The National Hurricane Center’s 5 p.m. advisory showed the storm was over 720 miles southeast of Bermuda and was likely to intensify to a major Category 4 hurricane as it travels west across the warm Atlantic waters.

“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 southeastern U.S. coast on Thursday,” the hurricane center said in its advisory.

Anticipating Florence could directly hit the U.S. Southeast late this week, forecasters urged residents from South Carolina to the mid-Atlantic to get ready — and not just for a direct blow against the coast. They warned that Florence could slow or stall after coming ashore, with some forecasting models showing it could unload a foot or two of rain in places, causing devastating inland flooding.

“Pretend, assume, presume that a major hurricane is going to hit right smack dab in the middle of South Carolina and is going to go way inshore,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said. The state’s emergency management agency said it is “preparing for the possibility of a large-scale disaster.”

The governors of North and South Carolina and Virginia declared states of emergency far ahead of the storm to get ready.

There also is a large area of disorganized showers and thunderstorms southwest of Bermuda. It has only a 10 percent chance of forming into a tropical storm.

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