Hurricane, storm surge watches issued for the OBX

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The National Hurricane Center on Tuesday issued hurricane  and storm surge watches for portions of the East Coast ahead of Hurricane Florence.

Florence quickly intensified into a powerful Category 4 hurricane Monday, maintaining maximum winds of 140 mph through the overnight hours. These destructive winds extend about 40 miles outward from the center of Florence.

The hurricane center said Tuesday morning that Florence’s wind speeds had gone down to 130 mph. 

Gov. Ralph Northam issued a mandatory evacuation — effective 8 a.m. Tuesday — for the most flood-prone areas of the Tidewater region.

The watches issued Tuesday covered an area from Edisto Beach, South Carolina through the Virginia state line — and included the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds.

A hurricane watch means hurricane conditions are possible within the area.

Meanwhile, a storm surge watch means the possibility of life-threatening rising water moving inland from the coastline over the next 48 hours. The combination of storm surge and tide may flood Ocracoke Inlet to the North Carolina/Virginia line anywhere from 3 to 5 feet. 

The hurricane center said rainfall estimates from Florence range from 15 to 20 inches across North Carolina, northern parts of South Carolina and Virginia. Some isolated areas could get up to 30 inches.

Florence was tracking to the west-northwest at 15 mph Tuesday morning. The hurricane is forecast to pick up speed over the next few days, before approaching the Carolinas.

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