US braces for worst as 'monster' Hurricane Florence bears down

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The hurricane has been rapidly strengthening all morning.

German astronaut Alexander Gerst posted photos of the massive hurricane, which is now a category four storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, online from space. Emergency officials say they're keeping a close eye on the forecast and where to move resources to respond to the storm.

Enough rain could fall to break North Carolina's record for a tropical storm - 24 inches - set near Wilmington during Hurricane Floyd in 1999, said Greg Carbin, chief of forecast operations at the Weather Service's national prediction center.

The storm strengthened from 130 miles per hour to 140 miles per hour and is Category 4, the NHC said.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, concerned the storm would bring its devastation south, issued an emergency declaration for all 159 counties in the state. "He also told us that he has requested, activated 200 National Guards with thousands more available should that be necessary".

Tropical Storm Isaac is weakening in the Caribbean, meteorologists said Wednesday.

Previous Hurricane Chris hit across Bermuda, East Coast of the US, Atlantic, Canada and Iceland and killed one person - lasting from July 6 to July 12.

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These maps show what to expect from Hurricane Florence
The National Weather Service reminded residents not to focus on the exact forecast track and intensity when planning for Olivia . Preparations for Florence are intensifying up and down the densely populated coast. "North Carolina faces three threats here".

But the gravest threat to the USA remains Hurricane Florence, which is expected to strengthen considerably by Monday night and remain "an extremely risky major hurricane" through Thursday, according to the Hurricane Center.

Heavy rain may extend as far inland as Charlotte, North Carolina's largest city, though the severity will depend on the storm's track, according to The Charlotte Observer.

A hurricane watch is in effect for Edisto Beach, South Carolina to South Santee River, South Carolina and North of Duck, North Carolina to the North Carolina-Virginia border.

The governor warned residents that Florence was gaining strength and that the winds would likely be higher than other recent hurricanes.

"With this storm, what's unique is it's forecast to stall. dropping copious amounts of rainfall across the Carolinas and into Virginia", Long said.

Hurricane Florence is now expected to head more directly west after making landfall, crossing through SC. The Hurricane Center explains: "Adding to the destructive power of surge, battering waves may increase damage to buildings directly along the coast".

The Federal Emergency Management Agency warns that Cat 3 winds will snap or uproot many trees and cause major damage to even well-built famed houses.

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