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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) declares a state of emergency in anticipation of possible effects of Florence. (Steve Helber/AP)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) declared a state of emergency Saturday in anticipation of the potential impact of Tropical Storm Florence.

The governor’s office said the order was intended to mobilize resources in preparation for the storm. It also aimed to help the state mitigate possible damage and facilitate the process by which Virginia provides aid to other vulnerable states.

Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center, in its latest advisory, said Florence was expected to strengthen Saturday night from a tropical storm to a full-fledged hurricane.

Florence was “forecast to become a dangerous major hurricane near the southeast U.S. coast” by late this week, the hurricane center said.

“The risk of direct impacts continues to increase,” the center said in an advisory at 5 p.m. Saturday.

However, the hurricane center said, “given the uncertainty” in forecasts of the storm’s track and uncertainty over the time period, it was too soon to say when, where and how powerfully the storm would strike.

It said the East Coast, particularly from north Florida to North Carolina, should keep a close watch on Florence’s movements and developments.

In his statement, Northam noted the uncertainties involved. But he also said forecasts “increasingly expect” strengthening into a major hurricane that could “seriously affect the East Coast and Virginians.”

“Accordingly,” he added, “I am declaring a state of emergency so that we can begin to prepare state assets, and I encourage Virginians to monitor forecasts and make their own preparations now.”

A state of emergency allows the commonwealth to mobilize resources, including the Virginia National Guard, and put people and equipment in position to help with storm response and recovery efforts.

In light of the uncertainties connected to the storm, Virginia’s emergency management officials encouraged preparation by all state residents, Northam said.

Effects could be widely felt, he said, from “high winds and storm surge in coastal Virginia to significant flooding both along the coast and in rivers and streams” in western areas.

Calling flooding the most deadly and dangerous aspect of hurricanes, he urged the public to recognize that flash floods can occur at any time.

In addition, the governor asked residents to assemble emergency kits to be brought along in case swift evacuations were called for. He also cited the importance of coastal residents knowing their evacuation zones before any storm impact was felt.

Warnings about Florence came against a backdrop of wet and stormy weather in the Washington area.

While Florence remained far out in the Atlantic, dark clouds and heavy rain Friday and Saturday seemed an appropriate way to herald its possible arrival.

On Friday, Washington was deluged with 2.89 inches of rain, as measured at Reagan National Airport.

Thunder pealed and boomed, lightning flashed, and rain seemed inescapable. In three separate Friday hours, more than half an inch fell in the city.

The .20 inches measured as of 5 p.m. Saturday brought the month’s total to 3.9 inches, well above the .88 inches that is normal here at this point in September. More was expected late Saturday and early Sunday.

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