Even though the storm's category fell from a 4 to a 2 Wednesday (local time), forecasters stressed the category is only an evaluation of the storm's peak winds in a very narrow core near the center of the storm.
As of 8 p.m., Florence was centered about 85 miles (135 kilometers) southeast of Wilmington, its forward movement slowed to 5 mph (7 kph). As of Thursday afternoon, the storm center is still just over 100 miles from Wilmington, N.C., and the eye is projected to make landfall early Friday.
Duke Energy said it would close a pair of nuclear power reactors at its Brunswick plant on the Cape Fear River, about four miles from Southport, N.C. The company said its procedures required closing the plants when facing sustained 75 mph winds, even though the plants were created to withstand winds of more than 200 mph and a storm surge of 22 feet.
Those officials, who are trained to work at this capacity, will be monitoring the storm and helping to answer emergency calls and coordinating response efforts before, during and after the storm, he said.
When a college football game was canceled due to Hurricane Florence, one of the team's decided to make the best out of the situation.
Once a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 140 miles per hour (225 kph), the hurricane was downgraded to a Category 1 on Thursday night.
"I like helping people, and I've had people help me so this is my way of giving back", she said.
North Carolina will see the equivalent of up to eight months of rain in a two- to three-day period, National Weather Service forecaster Brandon Locklear said in a video briefing. Millions of people were expected to lose power from the storm and restoration could take weeks.
In the North Carolina town of Wilmington, which could take a direct hit from Florence, wind gusts were stirring up frothy white caps into the Cape Fear River.
We hear from WCNC meteorologist Brad Panovich to get the latest on the storm and talk with reporters in Charlotte and on the coast about conditions.
The Hurricane Center reported heavy rain bands with tropical-storm-force winds had arrived in the North Carolina Outer Banks. In some counties, almost 1 in 3 people live below the poverty line. "Today the threat becomes a reality". Residents are still recovering from Hurricane Matthew and communities with financial struggles are slow to rebuild after a major disaster.
In North Carolina, one hotel has been evacuated and the outdoor furniture is being stored at the bottom of a pool.
Keep battery-operated flashlights and radios, medications, water and food on hand, Hayes said. The storm surge could reach up to more than 3.9m, if the maximum surge coincides with high tide.
Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered the evacuation of most of the state's coastline as the storm approaches.
"The shelters are not taking dogs", Ramirez said. They've also been praying, singing songs in their native language. Most of the damage during Hurricane Matthew in 2016 in North Carolina came from inland flooding - 31 people died and almost 100,000 homes were destroyed.
Her friend Kate is refusing to evacuate as well because of "the idea of having to leave with my two cats and go somewhere for a week or more".
Florence is one of four named storms in the Atlantic.