The 2018 hurricane season blew into high gear on Sunday.
Tropical Storm Helene was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, joining the strengthening Hurricane Florence, which had formed earlier in the week.
A third weather disturbance, Tropical Storm Isaac, was also expected to intensify into a hurricane by Monday.
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None of the storms currently presents an immediate threat to South Florida, according to the 5 p.m. Sunday advisory from the National Hurricane Center.
The gravest danger to the U.S. remains Hurricane Florence, which continued its west-northwest crawl toward the southeastern U.S. coast, packing maximum sustained winds of 85 mph.
The center of the hurricane is predicted to move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas by Wednesday and could intensify into a Category 4 storm, with winds reaching 130-156 mph, before it makes U.S. landfall sometime Thursday or early Friday.
Forecasters said it was too soon to determine the exact timing, location and magnitude of storm surges and flooding Florence will cause.
But Hurricane Center officials warned that anyone in coastal and inland locations from South Carolina to the mid-Atlantic region should “closely monitor the progress of Florence, ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place, and follow any advice given by local officials.”
At a news conference on Sunday, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster warned of a “likely strong hit” on the state and urged residents to begin making preparations now.
“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,” McMaster said. “So be prepared. Be ready.”
North and South Carolina and Virginia have all declared states of emergency in anticipation of Hurricane Florence.
As of Sunday afternoon, hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 25 miles from Florence’s center, while tropical storm winds extended up to 125 miles.
Tropical Storm Isaac, which packed sustained winds of 70 mph as of Sunday afternoon, is forecast to grow into a Category 1 hurricane.
As of 5 p.m. Sunday, Isaac was located 1,470 miles east of the Windward Islands and moving west at 12 mph. The storm is expected to continue on its westward path.
Even further away is Hurricane Helene and her 75 mph winds, which are 145 miles south southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands off the western coast of Africa. Helene’s expected to turn north well ahead of threatening the U.S. East Coast.
The 2018 hurricane season lasts until Nov. 30. Forecasters had predicted between nine and 13 named storms this season, four to seven of them hurricanes. Thus far, nine storms have been named.
The next National Hurricane Center advisory is scheduled for 11 p.m. Sunday.