Florence becomes first major hurricane of 2018 shocking forecasters


Hurricane Florence became the first major hurricane of the 2018 storm season in a “remarkable” intensification that shot it to a Category 4 cyclone.

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National Hurricane Center forecasters were shocked by the strengthening, which they said no models or meteorologists predicted.

Florence “continues to defy the intensity guidance, which has consistently been predicting weakening,” forecasters said.

As of the Wednesday 11 p.m. advisory, Florence was a 125-mph hurricane about 1,235 miles east-southeast of Bermuda and is no imminent threat to land.

The storm is expected maintain hurricane strength during the five-day forecast period, but could weaken over the next few days before regaining some power over the weekend.

Interactive tracking map: See where Florence is headed

Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground, called Florence’s growth to a major hurricane a “head-scratcher.”

Moderately high wind shear and marginally warm sea surface temperatures pointed to Florence decreasing in intensity in the short term.

“Florence shrugged off those seemingly hostile conditions,” Masters wrote in his Cat 6 blog.

Where Florence is headed depends on an area of high pressure in the Atlantic and whether it slips through a break in the ridge to head out to sea.

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“It is far too soon to speculate what, if any, impacts Florence may have on the U.S. East Coast next week,” NHC meteorologists Robbie Berg and Jamie Rhome wrote in their 5 p.m. forecast. “Regardless of Florence’s eventual track, large swells emanating from the hurricane will reach Bermuda beginning on Friday, resulting in life-threatening surf and rip currents on the island. Swells from Florence could also reach the U.S. East Coast by early next week.”

Behind Irma, the hurricane center is watching two tropical waves that have chances of developing.

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The first wave, Invest 92L, has a 90 percent chance of becoming a tropical system over the next five days, while a second wave that will move off the coast of Africa this week has a 30 percent chance.

The next names on the 2018 storm list are Helene and Isaac.

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