Hurricane Florence Path, Tracker Update Tuesday: Latest Models Show Major Hurricane Headed for Carolinas, Virginia (NOAA)

Florence path Tuesday AM
The Hurricane Florence projected path from NOAA has the Carolinas and Virgnia taking a hit from the major hurricane. Landfall is still forecast for North Carolina, models show. NOAA

Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm, is still forecast to bash into the East Coast late Thursday or early Friday at major hurricane strength. The storm is then expected to meander inland in the Appalachian region of South Carolina and North Carolina, delivering "life-threatening" freshwater flooding, according to the latest forecast models update from the National Hurricane Center (NOAA) delivered Tuesday.

The latest NHC models on Tuesday show Florence remaining across North Carolina as a tropical storm and then a tropical depression through early Sunday, potentially causing catastrophic flooding, power loss and other hazards. Hurricane watches and storm surge warnings have been issued along the coastline from South Carolina to Virginia.

"It's not just the coast," National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham warned, according to the AP. "When you stall a system like this and it moves real slow, some of that rainfall can extend well away from the center."

Florence has winds of up to 140 miles per hour Tuesday morning. The storm could gain Category 5 strength today, the NHC said, and while it may weaken some before landfall, it will likely maintain major hurricane strength. The last major hurricane to hit South Carolina directly was Hugo in 1989. The last Category 4 hurricane to hit North Carolina was Hurricane Hazel in 1954.

The latest forecast still shows Hurricane Florence on a path to make landfall North Carolina, and the storm could then drift south into South Carolina or further into North Carolina inland. The NHC reminds that it's hard to predict specific points days out and that the entire watch area should remain vigilant. Still, where the storm makes landfall can have a major impact along the coast.

Florence landfall is predicted in the overnight hours Friday morning, with winds of 130 miles per hour – major hurricane strength – the Weather Channel models predict.

"There remains some uncertainty where exactly the eye of Florence will make landfall late Thursday or Friday, which will determine what part of the coastline experiences the worst wind and storm-surge impacts," the Weather Channel reported

The NHC said Tuesday that Hurricane Florence poses the following risks for the hurricane watch area, including North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia:

1) A life-threatening storm surge is likely along portions of the coastlines of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, and a Storm Surge Watch has been issued for a portion of this area.

2) Life-threatening freshwater flooding is likely from a prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event, which may extend inland over the Carolinas and Mid Atlantic for hundreds of miles as Florence is expected to slow down as it approaches the coast and moves inland.

3) Damaging hurricane-force winds are likely along portions of the coasts of South Carolina and North Carolina, and a Hurricane Watch has been issued for a part of this area. Damaging winds could also spread well inland into portions of the Carolinas and Virginia.

More than one million residents have been ordered to evacuate from eight South Carolina counties and hurricane watches and storm surge warnings are expected to be posted early today. Those hoping that the models were wrong and that powerful Hurricane Florence might turn away into the Atlantic are now faced with preparations if not evacuations for one of the mightiest hurricanes to hit the region in decades.