The Category 3 hurricane with winds of 115 mph is expected to produce 20 to 30 inches of rain in the coast North Carolina area, and 5 to 10 inches in western SC and northern North Carolina, per the National Weather Service.
Hurricane Florence is now barreling toward the East Coast and is forecast to bring, "life-threatening storm surge and rainfall... across portions of the Carolinas", according to NOAA's National Hurricane Center.
Tens of thousands of homes are already without power and sea water is washing through coastal streets.
GETTY IMAGES |AFPAbout 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders and millions of others live in areas likely to be affected by what officials called a "once in a lifetime" storm.
At least 12,000 people had taken refuge in 126 emergency shelters, Governor Cooper said, with more facilities being opened.
Spanish moss waved in the trees as the winds picked up in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City.
Additionally, the National Hurricane Center has not changed its forecast for the storm surge - with up to 13 feet possible - or rainfall - with up to 40 inches dumped in some spots.
Life-threatening storm surge is being reported along the coast of the Carolinas.
More than 1,200 US airline flights scheduled for Thursday and Friday have been canceled, according to the flight-tracking service FlightAware.
A North Carolina city says about 70 people have been rescued from a hotel whose structural integrity is being threatened by Hurricane Florence.
As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that FEMA and first responders are "supplied and ready", and he disputed the official conclusion that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad.
"On a scale of one to 10, I'm probably a seven in terms of worry, she said". But Luettich said it is still not well understood how factors like rain accumulation and land saturation affect river and coastal flooding during major storm events.
She said a hurricane has a way of bringing everyone to the same level.
The NHC said the first tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 miles per hour (63 kph) would hit the region early on Thursday with the storm's center reaching the coast Friday.
However, late Tuesday the track of Hurricane Florence shifted south, creating uncertainty over how much impact the Lowcountry counties will see from the storm. "If you are on the coast, there is still time to get out safely".
Utility companies said millions were expected to lose power and restoration could take weeks. Home Depot and Lowe's activated emergency response centers to get generators, trash bags and bottled water to stores before and after the storm.
"We're just trying to plan for the future here, not having a house for an extended period of time", David Garrigus said.
People are seen inside a shelter run by Red Cross before Hurricane Florence comes ashore in Grantsboro, N.C., September 13, 2018.