"T$3 his is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you".
"The time to prepare is nearly over", Cooper warned.
Analytics firm CoreLogic predicts that the damage from Florence could be more than $170 billion - making it the most expensive hurricane to hit the continental U.S.
"It was pitch black and I was just scared out of my mind", said Tracy Singleton, who with her family later drove through torrential rain and high winds from her home near New Bern.
More than a million people have been ordered to evacuate the coastline of the three states, while schools and factories were being shuttered.
Faced with new forecasts that showed a more southerly threat, Georgia's governor joined his counterparts in Virginia and North and SC in declaring a state of emergency, and some residents who had thought they were safely out of range boarded up their homes. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal followed suit on Wednesday.
According to Mashable, if Florence hits North Carolina as a Category four storm, it will be the strongest storm to make landfall in the state since Hurricane Hazel in 1954. Rather than pushing up toward western Virginia, the storm's center is now predicted to move across eastern SC on Friday night and Saturday. "While some weakening is expected to begin by late Thursday, Florence is still forecast to be an extremely unsafe major hurricane when it nears the USA coast on Friday", the NHC said in an 11 a.m.
The lingering storm could bring days of heavy rains, which could spark intense floods from SC to Virginia.
South Carolina, western and northern North Carolina are expected to receive five to 10 inches and in isolated areas up to 20 inches. President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency on the federal level Tuesday for the Carolinas and Virginia.
Meanwhile, some of North Carolina's 2,100 industrial-size hog farmers are scrambling to drain waste pools containing manure before the hurricane hits, according to NPR.
Florence has already set a North Carolina record for rainfall totals, exceeding that of Hurricane Floyd, which struck in 1999 and caused 56 deaths. He adds, "Businesses in Myrtle Beach are to have operations ceased and secured by 5 this afternoon". The rainfall and flood threat would remain extreme, and there could be a southwestward-propagating storm surge along the coast.
Duke Energy, the nation's No. 2 power company, said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks.
In Wilmington, the fire department is urging people to prepare for at least seven days of hardship, collecting water and nonperishable foods.
If some of the computer projections hold, "it's going to come roaring up to the coast Thursday night and say, 'I'm not sure I really want to do this, and I'll just take a tour of the coast and decide where I want to go inland, '" said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private Weather Underground forecasting service. He has warned residents that they are on their own if they refuse to leave.
Florence is the most risky of three tropical systems in the Atlantic.
Satellite images show Florence has maintained a distinct eye and is well-organized.
"So Florence is kind of spreading out, becoming a much larger, more stable hurricane". "The situation would probably start deteriorating late tonight - maybe a bit cloudy - and then get progressively worse during the day (Thursday)", he said.
Hurricane force winds can be expected up to 70-miles from the center of the storm, and tropical storm force winds can reach up to 175-miles. The hurricane center also adjusted its projected track but stayed north of what most computer models were showing to prove some continuity with past forecasts.