Florence threatens east coast even before arrival

Florida officials warn of rip currents and strong waves ahead of the Category 4 hurricane, which is pushing toward the Carolinas. There has been one death and two injuries from surf conditions in Volusia County.

Hurricane Florence as seen from the International Space Station on Sept. 10, 2018. [Associated Press photo]
Hurricane Florence as seen from the International Space Station on Sept. 10, 2018. [Associated Press photo]

This article was updated on Sept. 11, 2018. For the most recent storm news, go to this link, which will be updated regularly.

Hurricane Florence is now threatening the Carolinas as a Category 4 storm, but Florida beachgoers are being warned of the potential effects of the storm even without a direct impact.

Strong waves and rip currents always pose a danger to swimmers, but conditions are worsening along along Florida’s east coast ahead of Florence’s arrival, especially in the northeastern part of the state.

The Daytona News-Journal reported a 64-year-old man drowned off New Smyrna Beach on Sunday, apparently due to water conditions. Two more people were injured when waves slammed them onto sandbars.

A hurricane hunter plane found Florence strengthening quickly after it became a hurricane on Sunday. By 8 a.m. Tuesday, Florence’s eye was about 950 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, N.C., and moving west-northwest at 15 mph. It was moving between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday before nearing the Carolinas on Thursday.

"Further strengthening is anticipated, and Florence is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane through Thursday," the National Hurricane Center said. "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 South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday."

Hurricanes Isaac, which could hit Caribbean islands, and Helene, much farther out to sea, lined up behind Florence as the 2018 Atlantic season reached its peak.

It's still too early to know the exact path of Florence, but forecasters said it could blow ashore along a stretch of the U.S. East Coast that experts have already identified as the most vulnerable to rising sea levels due to climate change.

The National Weather Service in Jacksonville warned residents of the potential effects of Florence, pointing out that storm conditions can affect areas far from the storm’s center.

The St. Johns County Emergency Operations Center included alerts on rip currents, possible flooding and beach erosion in an update on Monday.

Florida-based Carnival Cruise Line was re-routing its cruise ships, but there were other hurricanes to contend with.

Lining up behind Florence, Isaac was about 1,150 miles east of the Windward Islands, but by Tuesday had been downgraded ti a tropical storm, with top winds between 39 and 74 mph. Isaac's forward movement was accelerating on a path to cross into the lower Caribbean on Thursday. By then it may strengthen back into a hurricane.

Helene, meanwhile, was still in the Atlantic's spawning ground for hurricanes off the coast of Africa, about 375 miles west of the Cape Verde islands. It was swirling with sustained winds close to 110 mph, making it a strong Category 2 storm. It was forecast to become a major hurricane that would head northeast into the Atlantic, then turn toward Europe.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This article was originally posted on Sept. 10, 2018.

This article was written by one or more Florida Beach Insider staff members.