While the storm may have slowed down slightly, it will still bring life-threatening storm surges, high winds, massive flooding and power cuts as it makes landfall on the coast of North and SC.
Hurricane-force winds began whipping North Carolina as federal emergency management officials warned that the hurricane remained a "very risky storm" capable of wreaking havoc along a wide swathe of the coast. "Today the threat becomes a reality". "We have to keep watching".
Local meteorologists were already looking ahead to next week, when the remnants of Florence, by then expected to be a tropical or post-tropical depression, could move up into the Mid-Atlantic.
Experts agreed that despite Florence losing some power, it was still poised to sow just as much destruction - if not more. The prospect of even more rain across Pennsylvania anxious Port Deposit Mayor Wayne Tome Sr. on Thursday. "We have a safe basement and generator that comes on automatically".
Dominion, which supplies electricity in Virginia and North Carolina, is warning customers in both states to prepare for a multi-day storm that could bring high winds, flooding and widespread power outages.
"For a meandering storm, the biggest concern - as we saw with Harvey - is the huge amount of rainfall", said Chris Landsea, chief of tropical analysis and forecast branch at the National Hurricane Center. "We can not underestimate this storm".
The coastal area of SC features hundreds of inlets while North Carolina has barrier islands miles away from the mainland.
"I hope they made the right decision".
General O'Shaughnessy said there were about 7,000 United States military personnel now in place and ready to respond to the storm, along with ships, helicopters, high-wheeled vehicles and other equipment. Forecasters predict that high tides could rise as much as 3 feet above normal into Saturday in the city and in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert and Harford counties.
Zookeepers and veterinarians resolved to hunker down with the creatures and see them through the storm.
"The shelters are not taking dogs", Ramirez said.
Not everyone in the low-lying coastal areas in Florence's path have heeded warnings to evacuate. "But we're going to be okay", he said.
According to the NHC they "usually cause no significant structural damage to most well-constructed permanent structures". Fourteen of the dam's spill gates were opened Wednesday until the river crested Wednesday night, but several remained open through Thursday.
Hogan urged Marylanders to prepare for the possibility of more rain.
"They say if you stay (home), it's at your own risk", she said, noting that emergency services personnel said they could not risk their lives rescuing anyone who had disregarded official evacuation notices.
He said the magnitude of the storm may exceed the ability of the state-activated National Guard troops.
Myrtle Beach, a SC beach resort, was virtually deserted with empty streets, boarded up storefronts and very little traffic.