Right now, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Center is predicting that Florence will become a tropical storm tomorrow (Sept. 15) over SC, continue northwest to eastern Kentucky, then swing northeast and track over most of New England early next week.
Immigration officers have been dispatched to help with response and recovery as Florence lashes North and SC with life-threatening winds, rain and floods.
Florence's maximum sustained winds were clocked on Thursday at 165 kph after it was downgraded to a Category 2 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, according to the NHC.
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Hurricane Florence is forecast to make landfall tomorrow.
But North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent". "To those in the storm's path, if you can hear me, please stay sheltered in place". "Today the threat becomes a reality".
Millions of people could lose power across North and SC.
Coastal streets were inundated with ocean water, causing damage to dozens of homes and businesses, officials said.
A statement from the NOAA reads: "The center of the eye of Hurricane Florence was located by an Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft and NOAA Doppler radar near latitude 34.2 North, longitude 77.4 West".
"Right now we have extreme flooding and storm surge".
After criticism for its response in Puerto Rico to last year's Hurricane Maria, which officials there said was responsible for 3,000 deaths, Trump has vowed a vigorous response to Florence and defended his handling of Maria.
Almost 1,200 flights have been canceled because of the storm.
Spanish moss waved in the trees as the winds picked up in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City.
Wilmington resident Julie Terrell was plenty concerned after walking to breakfast past a row of shops fortified with boards, sandbags and hurricane shutters.
He said there are about 7,000 U.S. military forces now in place and ready to respond to the storm - along with ships, helicopters and high-wheeled vehicles. "Because it's Mother Nature". Forecasters are predicting as much as 40in of rain in some localized areas.
More than 1.7 million people evacuated this week, leaving behind homes, schools and precious belongings.
"We can show you what this could look like, if you were to find yourself in this scenario", meteorologist Erika Navarro says. "Whether you have a house or not, when the storm comes it will bring everyone together. A storm can come and wipe your house out overnight".
The head of Duke Energy Corp.'s North Carolina operations says it could take weeks to restore electricity if the company's prediction that 1 million to 3 million of its 4 million customers lose power. Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm's aftermath, it said.
In this September 12, 2018 photo provided by NASA, Hurricane Florence churns over the Atlantic Ocean heading for the US east coast as seen from the International Space Station.
Structures, such as this one in Swansboro, collapsed as the storm surge and hurricane force winds whipped through the area.
Scientists said it is too soon to say what role, if any, global warming played in the storm.
The result: prolonged storm surge, wind and rain. As the storm moves inland it will find a relatively flat area for hundreds of miles.
"Inland flooding kills a lot of people, unfortunately, and that's what we're about to see", Long added.