Hurricane Florence Trajectory, Latest Tracker Update: Florence Headed on Path to East Coast Packing Power, NOAA Says

Hurricane Florence is likely to reach the Category 5 level Tuesday, just days before it is predicted to slam into the East Coast with "life-threatening" brute force, the National Hurricane Center said Monday in its latest update.

"Unfortunately, the models were right," the NHC said. "Florence has rapidly intensified into an extremely dangerous hurricane…"

Hurricane Florence is expected to make landfall on the East Coast Thursday, likely in North Carolina or South Carolina, with tropical storm conditions beginning as early as Thursday morning. Life-threatening storm surge and inland flooding are likely, the NHC said.

What's also notable about the most recent NHC update is that it shows Hurricane Florence still at hurricane strength inland on Friday at 8 a.m.—that's hours beyond landfall and would mean a powerful storm trudged deep into North Carolina. The storm is also expected to slow and drench the Appalachian region through Saturday.

More than one million South Carolina residents have already been ordered to evacuate from eight coastal counties. Hurricane watches and storm surge warnings are expected to be posted Tuesday morning. Earlier today Hurricane Florence exploded from a Category 2 storm to a Category 4 storm, generating power from warm Atlantic waters and little wind shear.

A NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft entered the storm today and found peak winds "of about 120 kt, with flight-level winds and dropsonde measurements also supporting that value for the initial wind speed estimate," the NHC said. "Notably, the aircraft data also show the size of the hurricane-force winds has doubled in the past 12 hours."

Where is Hurricane Florence right now?

As of late Monday afternoon, Florence is located about 1,100 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina. The storm is moving west-northwest.

How strong will Florence be at landfall?

"None of the guidance suggest that Florence has peaked in intensity, and this is supported by a continuation of a low-shear environment, and even warmer waters over the next 36 hours," the NHC said. "Thus, the intensity forecast is raised from the previous one, bringing Florence close to category 5 strength tomorrow."

"Near landfall, the vertical wind shear could increase, along with the increasing likelihood of eyewall cycles," the NHC said. "While the intensity forecast shows some weakening of the maximum winds near landfall, the wind field is expected to grow with time, which increases the storm surge and inland wind threats."

When will Hurricane Florence arrive?

Hurricane Florence's projected path takes the storm ashore late Thursday at major hurricane strength. It moves inland by Friday morning, and the latest models show it still sitting over North Carolina by Saturday morning as a tropical depression. If that scenario plays out, forecasters say the region could receive devastating flooding.

The Hurricane Florence risks include storm surge, inland flooding, and coastal and inland winds. The last major hurricane to hit the Carolinas was Hugo in 1989.