The National Hurricane Center's best guess was that Florence would blow ashore as early as Friday afternoon around the North Carolina-South Carolina line, then slog its rainy way westward with a potential for catastrophic inland flooding that could swamp homes, businesses and farm fields. Notice the lag in flooding; most rivers will begin to rise 48 to 72 hours after the storm exits the coast.
Air Force General Terrence J O'Shaughnessy, head of US Command, said search and rescue is a top priority but that the magnitude of the storm may exceed the ability of rescuers.
Michael Nelson floats in a boat made from a metal tub and fishing floats after the Neuse River went over its banks and flooded his street during Hurricane Florence in New Bern, N.C., Thursday.
At 5 p.m. Thursday, the center of Florence was 100 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and 155 miles east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
According to CNN, the hurricane hit the east coast of the United States with 90-mph winds and relentless rain.
Hurricane Florence has slowed as it approaches Wilmington, now marching at 5 miles per hour as it continues to aim its center at Wilmington, according to a 5 p.m. briefing by the National Hurricane Center.
Their entire neighborhood evacuated in Wilmington, North Carolina, David and Janelle Garrigus planned to ride out Florence at their daughter's one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte.
A simulation weather video is showing what the life-threatening Hurricane Florence storm surge might look like if it reaches a frightening nine feet (2.7m).
Sheets of rain splattered against windows of a hotel before daybreak in Wilmington, where Sandie Orsa of Wilmington sat in a lobby lit by emergency lights after the power failed.
"(It's) very eerie, the wind howling, the rain blowing sideways, debris flying", said Orsa, who lives nearby and fears splintering trees will pummel her house.
Experts are warning people that the most serious threat posed by Florence might just be the massive amount of water it is expected to leave in its wake, from the storm surge that could exceed 13 feet in some areas to a deluge of rainfall that may hit 40 inches in certain pockets. "You never know where there are active downed powerlines that could cause an electric situation", Parker says.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. "Nothing's hit the house yet, but it's still blowing".
"Sustained hurricane-force winds occurring along the North Carolina coast", the briefing said.
"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", New Bern city officials said on Twitter.
Schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia, airlines canceled more than 1,500 flights, and coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely emptied out.
Tornadoes are also possible in the eastern North Carolina area according to the NHC, as wind and rain impact land.
It's unclear exactly how many people evacuated, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out. More than 3,000 inmates at North Carolina prisons and juvenile detention centers were moved out of the storm's path.
Though Hurricane Florence has been downgraded to a category 2 hurricane, it's still likely to cause significant damage via flooding along the Carolinas.
So far, it's estimate more than 1.7 million Americans have heeded the warnings about Hurricane Florence.
He said electric power could be out for weeks.