Bermuda readies itself for Florence, a storm that threatens to become a hurricane

Islanders crowded stores Friday to buy generators, bottled water and other emergency supplies as Tropical Storm Florence chugged through the open Atlantic on a path toward Bermuda.

Florence is expected to reach hurricane strength by the time it reaches the tiny British territory on Monday, according to forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, though it was too early to tell whether it will make a direct hit.

"Even if the center misses Bermuda by a couple hundred miles, this is a very large storm so there's likely to be some effect," said Mark Willis, a meteorologist at the center. "If not the strong winds, there will definitely be some rough surf."

Emergency response coordinators planned to meet Friday to discuss Florence's progress, and Bermuda was expected to announce a tropical storm watch or warning within 24 hours.

The government on Thursday urged the territory's 65,000 residents to take precautions.

"The public is encouraged to stock up on normal hurricane supplies and to secure their homes, lawn furniture and any other loose items which could be affected by high winds," said Derrick Burgess, minister of public safety.

A line of customers snaked through the Masters hardware store in Hamilton, which sold out of lanterns by Friday afternoon. Carolyn Wagensveld, who was stocking up on candles, said she arrived from Toronto on Thursday to take a teaching job and was looking to locals for guidance.

"I'm a little nervous but the islanders don't seem to worried, so I'm not too worried," she said.

Another customer, Colette Lightbourne, said storm preparations were a familiar routine, reports AP.

"It's happened so many times before, we're used to it," she said. "Everyone will be buying their supplies today and clearing their yards."

The storm was expected to veer away from the U.S. coast as it turns north toward Bermuda, but forecasters said its large size could also create high surf and rip currents along parts of the eastern U.S. coast. Tropical storm force wind extended up to 405 miles (650 kilometers) from Florence's center.

The hurricane center said in an advisory that the storm "appears ready to strengthen."