Hurricane, tropical-storm and storm-surge watches and warnings now cover 10 million people from North and SC to Virginia.
A view of Hurricane Florence is shown churning in the Atlantic Ocean in a west, north-westerly direction heading for the eastern coastline of the United States, taken by cameras outside the International Space Station, September 12, 2018.
From the Ocracoke Inlet to the North Carolina-Virginia border and from the South Santee River to North Myrtle Beach, the NHC forecast that water could rise as high as 6 feet.
The category three storm is ploughing towards the east coast and is due to make landfall in SC early on Friday morning.
Florence's nighttime winds were down to 115 miles per hour (185 kph) from a high of 140 miles per hour (225 kph), and the Category 4 storm fell to a Category 3, with a further slow weakening expected as the storm nears the coast.
Fox News reported that sustained winds were picking up a bit along the North Carolina coast.
People fleeing coastal North and SC clogged highways Wednesday as Florence bore down on the coast for a direct hit in a low-lying region dense with beachfront vacation homes. Instead, the storm is now expected to make landfall over Wilmington, traveling south over Myrtle Beach between Friday and Saturday, and then traveling through SC and North Carolina to the Tennessee border through Sunday into Monday. Michael Walden, an economist at North Carolina State University, calculates that Florence will deduct about $200 million of output a day from North Carolina's $550 billion-a-year economy until business returns to something close to normal.
'North Carolina, my message is clear: Disaster is at the doorstep, and it's coming in'. Heavy rains were forecast to extend into the Appalachian Mountains, affecting parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.
Emergency declarations were in force in Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Many didn't realize that a mandatory evacuation had been issued for Wednesday night until they heard police driving through the streets at 8 a.m. telling people over a loudspeaker to evacuate.
"The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast in areas of onshore winds, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves", the NHC said.
It is very important to point out that changes in the forecast track are still possible and even small changes in the storm could greatly change the expected conditions in your area.
Duke Energy Corp expected between 25 percent and 75 percent of its 4 million customers would lose power in the Carolinas.
The storms path is promising to bring even more devastation than first predicted to the Carolinas and parts of Georgia. "We just need to figure out how to make it through".
A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for...
"It's going to be bad", said Woody White, chairman of the New Hanover County Commissioners. "But no matter how bad it's going to be, it will pass and our job will be to rebuild this community together, and that's what we're going to do".