Trump says federal government ready as East Coast prepares for Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The Latest on Hurricanes Florence and Isaac (all times local):

12:50 p.m. President Donald Trump says the federal government is “absolutely, totally prepared” for Hurricane Florence as it heads toward the Eastern Seaboard. The president briefed reporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Tuesday. Trump has declared states of emergency for North and South Carolina ahead of the Category 4 hurricane, which frees up help from federal agencies. He has also canceled campaign events Thursday and Friday in anticipation of the storm. The president was meeting with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency later Tuesday.

12:50 p.m. Some areas in Florence’s path, particularly northern Virginia, have seen more rainfall than normal this summer, and National Weather Service officials say that means flooding might begin more quickly. Data from the weather service show some parts of northern Virginia have seen 10 inches (25 centimeters) or more of precipitation above average over the past 90 days. Fred Turck is part of the Virginia’s Department of Forestry’s fire and emergency response division. He says the department is concerned about what could be excessive timber damage. He says when soil is saturated, less wind than normally would be needed can topple a tree because the roots don’t hold as well. Turck says tree damage will result in short-term impacts like power outages, blocked roads and damaged structures but could also impact the long-term health of forests and lead to wildfire problem.

12:30 p.m. The mayor of Washington, D.C., has declared a state of emergency as the nation’s capital prepares for heavy rains, flooding and power outages related to Hurricane Florence. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the move Tuesday morning, describing it as a necessary step to “ensure we have the resources and support” to handle several days of torrential rain. Several public events and street festivals scheduled for this weekend have been canceled, and Bowser advised Washington residents to stock up on groceries and batteries and make sure their prescriptions are filled. City officials say the primary dangers to residents will come from flash flooding and power lines downed by falling tree branches.

12:15 p.m. Some Virginians who have been ordered to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Florence may have to wait a few days before they can get into a free shelter. Virginia Department of Emergency Management spokesman Jeff Caldwell said local governments are responsible for opening up shelters for evacuees and some won’t open until Wednesday or Thursday. Gov. Ralph Northam ordered a mandatory evacuation for some residents of low-lying coastal areas that went into effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday. The order affects 245,000 residents in the Hampton Roads area, the Eastern Shore and other coastal areas. Caldwell said the state is considering opening its own shelters later this week if the local shelters fill to capacity.

12:15 p.m. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is saying his state is “in the bull’s-eye” of Hurricane Florence. The very center of that bull’s-eye may be Camp Lejeune. Authorities on the sprawling Marine Corps training base are in emergency mode, staging equipment and urging families on the base to build survival kits with the food and equipment needed to sustain themselves for 72 hours. Mandatory coastal evacuations were in effect for civilians in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, but the military base posted on Facebook that different chains-of-command would decide whether to release non-essential personnel. Some military families are venting fears they won’t be able to evacuate in time.

12:15 p.m. Officials say they’re taking steps to ensure safety at nuclear power plants in South Carolina as a Category 4 hurricane nears the state. Ryan Mosier of Duke Energy told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the power company was closely monitoring Hurricane Florence and ensuring that emergency equipment is in working order. Duke operates three nuclear stations in South Carolina, though none are along the coast. SCANA operates two reactors at a site just north of Columbia. Mosier says each of Duke’s sites has emergency generators for backup power, as well as pumps and other redundant systems and supplies of food and water for employees. If forecasters predict any site will experience sustained winds of 73 mph (117 kph) or more, Mosier says operators will begin to shut down units at least two hours prior to impact.

11:55 a.m. Gov. Greg Abbott says Texas is preparing for a possible tropical storm system in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. The tropical system is one of five that have formed in the Atlantic Ocean, including hurricanes Florence and Helene, Tropical Storm Isaac and an as-yet unnamed system far off the East Coast. Abbott says Texas is keeping an eye on the system in the Gulf. The National Hurricane Center says that system could become a tropical depression by Thursday or Friday, and that residents along both the Texas and Louisiana coasts should monitor the storm. Florence is the most powerful and dangerous of all the weather systems. The Category 4 hurricane with 130 mph (215 kph) winds was barreling toward the coasts of North and South Carolina and has been forecast to hit land as an extremely large, powerful and dangerous storm. Some coastal residents have been ordered to evacuate.