TROPICS: Florence expected to produce damaging winds in Carolinas

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Hurricane Helene is strengthening rapidly as it moves across the tropical Atlantic.

The latest update from the National Hurricane Center shows the storm packing maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour, up from 105 miles per hour at 5 a.m. this morning, making it the first major hurricane of the 2018 season.

Though Isaac is expected to weaken before making landfall and return to a Tropical Storm by late Thursday, numerous islands are still rebuilding following Hurricane Maria and are expected to experience heavy rain, winds, rough surf and increased rip currents in the oncoming days.

Dominica, still recovering from the battering it took from Hurricane Maria last September, is preparing for the passage of Hurricane Isaac that meteorological officials say could pass near or over the island by Wednesday night. "Its impacts may be felt much deeper in the U.S., including in most of Virginia". The state's emergency management agency said it is "preparing for the possibility of a large-scale disaster".

Isaac: As of the 5:00am advisory, Hurricane Isaac has maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour.

On North Carolina's Outer Banks, Dawn Farrow Taylor, 50, was gathering photos and important documents and filling prescriptions Monday before heading inland.

"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", the NHC said. "With time, the wind pushes the water into every nook and cranny you can think of", Graham said. But experts are urging people along the eastern seaboard to be especially cautious.

North Carolina crews were getting bulldozers and chain saws ready. The Windward Islands can anticipate 1- to 2-inches of rain. Ilija Cesal told the newspaper he wouldn't worry about buying extra water or other supplies for a few more days.

"I'm telling them to go inland, but I'm anxious about the rain and tornadoes too", Roberts said. The University of North Carolina Wilmington announced it has canceled classes and issued a voluntary evacuation for students starting at noon today.

The US navy has ordered ships at its major base in Hampton Roads, Virginia, base to put to sea, saying "the forecasted destructive winds and tidal surge are too great to keep the ships in port". As of 11 p.m. Saturday, Florence had maximum sustained winds of 70 mp and was located about 790 miles southeast of Bermuda. It should accelerate over the next 36 hours, but poses no threat to land at this time.

Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia.

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