The Latest: Florence prompts state of emergency in Virginia

MIAMI (AP) — The Latest on Tropical Storm Florence (all times local):

5:45 p.m.

Virginia’s governor has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the potential impact of Tropical Storm Florence.

The order issued Saturday by Gov. Ralph Northam helps mobilize resources to prepare for the storm, mitigate any damage and streamline the process Virginia uses to send assistance to other states.

Northam said in a statement that while the impacts are still uncertain, forecasts increasingly expect the storm to strengthen into a major hurricane that could affect the East Coast, including Virginia, next week. Impacts could include flooding, high winds and a possible storm surge.

The governor is urging residents to begin preparing now by assembling an emergency kit with food, water, medication, pet supplies and important documents. Coastal residents should also check what hurricane evacuation zone they live in.

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5:25 p.m.

Forecasters expect Tropical Storm Florence to become a hurricane again soon as it approaches the East Coast.

In its 5 p.m. EDT advisory, the National Hurricane Center said “a significant phase of intensification” is expected late Saturday.

The Miami-based weather center says the storm could intensify to a Category 4 hurricane by midweek, but its path was still unclear.

On Saturday evening, Florence’s maximum sustained winds were estimated to be 70 mph (110 kph). The storm was centered about 810 miles (1305 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda and moving west at 5 mph (7 kph).

Officials say Florence-generated swells are affecting Bermuda and starting to reach parts of the U.S. East Coast.

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4 p.m.

The U.S. Navy is making preparations this weekend for its ships in the Hampton Roads area to leave port as Tropical Storm Florence approaches the East Coast.

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.

Adm. Christopher Grady said the decision was based on Florence’s current track, which indicates the area could see strong sustained winds and storm surges.

The National Hurricane Center said Saturday that Florence will start to rapidly intensify Sunday, and be a major hurricane by Tuesday.

The news release notes that plans could change if forecasts indicate a decrease in the strength or change in the track of the storm.

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2:25 p.m.

The U.S. Navy is making preparations this weekend for its ships in the Hampton Roads area to leave port as Tropical Storm Florence approaches the East Coast.

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.

Adm. Christopher Grady said in a statement that the decision was based on Florence’s current track, which indicates the area could see strong sustained winds and storm surges.

The National Hurricane Center said Saturday that Florence will start to rapidly intensify Sunday, and be a major hurricane by Tuesday.

The news release notes that plans could change if forecasts indicate a decrease in the strength or change in the track of the storm.

2:25 p.m.

South Carolina’s governor declared a state of emergency Saturday to give his state time to prepare for the possible arrival of Tropical Storm Florence.

Gov. Henry McMaster emphasized that there’s no way to know yet when and where the storm will hit land, or when evacuations might be called.

McMaster spoke at the South Carolina Emergency Management Division headquarters in West Columbia, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from where the South Carolina-Georgia football game was to start a few hours later.

He said he’s not telling people to leave, just to prepare.

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11 a.m.

Forecasters say Tropical Storm Florence is becoming a “better organized” weather system and will likely strengthen into a hurricane late Saturday.

The National Hurricane center said Saturday that Florence will start to rapidly intensify Sunday, and be a major hurricane by Tuesday.

Life-threatening surf and rip current conditions were likely to affect Bermuda and the U.S. East Coast over the weekend.

The storm’s center will approach the U.S. Southeast coast on Thursday after passing between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Officials say Tropical Storm Florence continues to approach the U.S. East Coast and swells generated by the storm are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

The National Hurricane Center said early Saturday morning that the storm is located about 840 miles (1351.79 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda and is moving westward at about 9 mph (14 km/h). The storm has maximum sustained winds of about 65 mph (100 km/h) with higher gusts.

The Miami-based center said Florence is expected to become a hurricane by Sunday.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency Friday evening. Cooper says it’s “too early” to know where the storm will go, but he says residents should use the weekend to prepare for the possibility of a natural disaster.

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