Enough rain could fall to break North Carolina's record for a tropical storm - 24 inches - set near Wilmington during Hurricane Floyd in 1999, said Greg Carbin, chief of forecast operations at the Weather Service's national prediction center. Ahead of what is projected to be massive devastation for several Southeast states, NASA has released high-definition footage of the storm as viewed from the International Space Station above the Atlantic Ocean.
The lingering storm could bring days of heavy rains, which could spark intense floods from SC to Virginia.
At the White House, President Donald Trump urged people to "get out of its way".
Sharp said weather conditions will deteriorate as we go through the day on Thursday with rain, a little wind and the chance of tornadoes.
The latest projections of Florence, now a Category 4 storm, show it shifting south putting Georgia in its possible path.
Emergency preparations in the area included activating 2,800 National Guard troops in North Carolina, stockpiling food, setting up shelters, switching traffic patterns so that major roads led away from shore and securing 16 nuclear power reactors in the three-state region. Florence exploded into a potentially catastrophic hurricane Monday as it closed in on North and SC, carrying winds up to 140 miles per hour (220 kph) and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week.
Residents on the Carolina coast are finding empty gas pumps and depleted store shelves as they flee a potentially devastating blow from Hurricane Florence.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper had a direct message for residents who decide to stay put.
Panovich: Right now it looks like landfall is going to occur sometime early Friday morning between, I would say, 4 a.m. and probably about 8 a.m., but it might actually never make it all the way in. "It's big, and it's vicious", he said.
With the storm churning across the Atlantic with 140 miles per hour winds, hurricane watches and warnings include the homes of more than 5.4 million people on the East Coast.
And it led to mixed signals from officials in SC, whose governor had canceled mandatory evacuation for several coastal counties. "Storm surge watches are in effect in these areas - hurricane watches are in effect for coastal South Carolina, North Carolina". "It is an extremely unsafe, life-threatening, historic hurricane", North Carolina governor Roy Cooper said.