Florence is lashing the state with "heavy rainbands with tropical-storm-force winds spreading across the Outer Banks and Coastal Southeastern North Carolina", the briefing said.
Hurricane Florence's winds began whipping coastal North Carolina on Thursday as the slow-moving tempest began to unleash fierce rains that forecasters warned would cause catastrophic flooding across a wide swath of the US southeast. The power company has warned that up to 3 million people could be left without power for an extended period of time following Hurricane Florence.
And then there's the major slowdown that's expected: as of Thursday, Florence was moving roughly 17 km/h, but once it makes landfall, it's expected to nearly stall, with its forward speed dropping to just 9 km/h or less.
North Carolina and SC are bracing for the onslaught, which could bring storm surges as high as nine feet and rainfall of as much as 40 inches in some areas. Farther inland, rain totals could reach 25 centimeters (10 inches) in the Carolinas, and 15 centimeters (6 inches) in neighboring states. That could cause normally dry areas to be flooded by up to 4 meters (13 feet) of water moving inland.
Hurricane Florence has decreased in speed and is now a Category 2 hurricane, the National Hurricane Center announced shortly before midnight Wednesday.
The centre of Florence, a Category 2 hurricane, will approach the coasts of North and SC today, the NHC said, adding that it was expected to weaken after it moved inland.
One such tool helping hurricane-watchers keep track of Florence is the appropriately-named Hurricane Tracker app.
President Donald Trump has declared states of emergency for North and SC and Virginia, and 1.7 million people have been warned to leave. "It's a big one", he said.
"We'll handle it. We're ready". "We're kind of at the mercy of the storm".
Hurricane Florence weakened overnight, but is still a powerful storm. Florence has weakened a bit over 24 hours, but it's also grown even larger - and it will likely dump torrential rain over North and SC through Monday.
A hurricane's numerical classification tends to dominate the headlines, but it tells only part of the story - it rates a storm's wind speeds - and not necessarily the most life-threatening part.
"Do you want to get hit with a train or do you want to get hit with a cement truck?" said Jeff Byard, an administrator with the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"Residents in central North Carolina should be prepared to feel the impact of the storm from Thursday night through at least Monday due to threat of flooding and widespread and prolonged power outages", Gov. Cooper said.
In Carolina Beach, North Carolina, authorities have stopped allowing traffic to the island via the only bridge between the island and the mainland. The center is slowing down and is expected to stall and perhaps wander around just off shore on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tropical Storm Isaac was expected to pass south of Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, while Hurricane Helene was moving northward away from land.
Waves 83 feet high were measured near the eye of Florence, according to a tweet from the National Hurricane Center.