Weather forecasters say Florence has strengthened into a hurricane

This enhanced satellite image made available by NOAA shows Tropical Storm Florence, center, in the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 at 2:45 p.m. EDT. (NOAA via AP)

MIAMI (AP) -- Weather forecasters say storm approaching US East Coast has strengthened into a hurricane.

The storm's sustained winds reached 75 mph (121 kph), just over the threshold for a hurricane, on Sunday morning as it was swirling across the Atlantic, about 750 miles (1,210 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda. It was moving west at 6 mph.

Florence is expected to become a major hurricane by Monday, the National Hurricane Center said. The Miami-based center defines a major hurricane as one with wind speed greater than 110 mph (177 kph).

It is forecast to approach the southeastern U.S. coast on Thursday.

The hurricane center said it was still too early to predict its exact path. But forecasters said that the risk of "direct impacts continues to increase" and that a huge coastal area from northern Florida to North Carolina should prepare for a major hit.

The governors of North and South Carolina and Virginia declared states of emergency to give them time to prepare, and the Navy said ships in Virginia's Hampton Roads area would leave port for their own safety.

Dangerous swells generated by Florence affected Bermuda and have begun to reach parts of the Eastern Seaboard.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off