The odds of a major hurricane making landfall along the U.S. East Coast next week keep growing. Forecast models paint an increasingly grim picture, converging on a track that would have what is currently Tropical Storm Florence making a direct hit as a powerful hurricane somewhere along the U.S. Southeast coast.

That said, potential U.S. landfall is still several days away, and Florence’s ultimate track and intensity are not yet certain, with still a small chance that it meanders just off the East Coast and then curls out to sea.

As of 11 a.m. Saturday, Florence bore no resemblance to the beastly storm that it will eventually become. Florence remains a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, located some 1,500 miles east of the U.S. mainland, slowly tracking to the west at less than 10 mph.

Over the last 36 hours, Florence weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm as the system encountered hostile conditions in the central Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, the environment that Florence is about to move into is extremely favorable for rapid strengthening, thanks to warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures and low wind shear – the change in wind direction or speed with height. As a result, the National Hurricane Center expects Florence to regain hurricane status within the next 24 hours and intensify to a major hurricane of Category 3 or higher by Tuesday.

As Florence enters a region favorable to rapid intensification, the storm will continue to track almost due west, likely passing just south of Bermuda by early this week. Historically speaking, the path that Florence is likely to carve out is a highly unusual one. Since 1851, 79 tropical systems tracked close to Florence’s current location, and not one of those storms made a U.S. landfall, with the vast majority remaining well offshore.

However, models indicate a historically strong ridge of high pressure will develop in the western Atlantic just as Florence closes in on the U.S. This system would likely prevent Florence from recurving to the north and out to sea.

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