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Hurricane Florence strengthens as Southeast is warned to prepare

"Presume that a major hurricane is going to hit right smack dab in the middle of South Carolina," Gov. Henry McMaster said.
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Hurricane Florence was expected to become an extremely dangerous major hurricane sometime Monday and remain that way for days, prompting officials from Florida to Virginia to warn residents to prepare for the worst.

Florence crossed the 74 mph threshold from tropical storm to a hurricane Sunday morning, and by evening its winds were up to 85 mph.

As of 5 a.m. ET on Monday, Florence was centered about 625 miles southeast of Bermuda, moving west at 9 mph. Its maximum sustained winds were at 105 mph.

Drawing energy from the warm water, it could be a fearsome Category 4 with winds of 130 mph or more by Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Speaking to reporters Sunday, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster told residents to "presume that a major hurricane is going to hit right smack dab in the middle" of the state.

McMaster was among several governors to declare a state of emergency over the weekend. Govs. Roy Cooper of North Carolina and Ralph Northam of Virginia also declared states of emergency, while Gov. Rick Scott of Florida cautioned residents that the storm's path could easily turn south.

"While our state is not under any current weather advisories, in Florida, we know how quickly a major storm can shift its path," Scott said in a statement. "Now is the time to get prepared to make sure your family is safe."

The hurricane caused some cruise ships that had been headed to the Caribbean to redirect their routes, including Norwegian Dawn. Instead of motoring to Bermuda from Boston, the 2,340-guest ship headed to Canada with a stop in Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, on Sunday morning.

A Caribbean white sand beach it was not, but passengers appeared to be making the best of it.

"A little disappointing because we didn't go to Bermuda" is how Susan Lefave put it to the Canadian broadcaster CTV. "But it's wonderful here."