Gov. Roy Cooper warned, describing day after day of disastrous weather to come.
The hurricane's maximum wind speed slowed to 105 miles per hour overnight, but experts predict 13 feet of storm surge will spill across some coastal areas, creating "catastrophic" and "life-threatening inundation", said a NHC statement issued Thursday.
Florence's top sustained wind speeds dropped from a high of 225kmh to 175kmh as its outer rain bands approached the North Carolina coast early on Thursday.
Executives say if you're riding out the storm near the coast you should not expect to have power back for days or even weeks.
With South Carolinas beach towns now more in the bulls-eye because of the shifting forecast, OH vacationers Chris and Nicole Roland put off their departure from North Myrtle Beach to get the maximum amount of time on the sand.
At 7 a.m., Florence was centered just 5 miles (10 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina.
The center of Florence is expected to approach the coasts of the Carolinas today and move over the coast of southern North Carolina and eastern SC tonight and Friday.
It is forecast to bring 20-40in (50-100cm) of rain and life-threatening storm surges of up to 13ft.
The result: catastrophic inland flooding that could swamp homes, businesses, farm fields and industrial sites.
We continue to keep an eye on Hurricane Florence as the storm inches closer to the southeast coast.
"I'm not going to lie: I'm scared", she said.
Hurricane Florence was making a marathon landfall in North Carolina early Friday, pushing a life-threatening storm surge of floodwater miles inland and ripping apart buildings with screaming wind and pelting rain.
"Get out of its way, don't play games with it", said Mr Trump. "Its a big one", he said at the White House.
It's unclear exactly how many people fled, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out. Airlines canceled almost 1,000 flights and counting. Home Depot and Lowes activated emergency response centers to get generators, trash bags and bottled water to stores before and after the storm. The two hardware chains said they sent in a total of around 1100 trucks.
Sand bags surround homes on North Topsail Beach, N.C., September 12, 2018, as Hurricane Florence threatens the coast.
Isaac Ginis, a hurricane expert at the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography, said that with rising temperatures, hurricanes are likely to become more intense, bring more rain and pose more risks to coastal areas from higher seas and bigger storm surges and waves.
Boarding up his home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Chris Pennington watched the forecasts and tried to decide when to leave.
Latonya Willis of Wilmington, N.C., holds her 17 month-old son Ayden with her other children Kaiden and Dailyn in tow Wednesday before heading out on an evacuation bus ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence.
"It certainly is a challenge forecasting precise impacts when its exact track won't be known until a day in advance", Landsea told AP.
A National Weather Service forecaster said: "This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast". Unsure of what they might find when they return home, the couple went shopping for a recreational vehicle.
"That's not necessarily connected to global warming, but that's an indication of what we might see in the future more often", he said. Three other Southern raceways also opened campgrounds to evacuees. If the storm lingers longer, more rain will fall, according to forecasters.
While it's great that the government is ready for this monster named Florence, it's not so great when the President conflates the situation by claiming that a storm which has weakened somewhat significantly over the last 48 hours, is now "more powerful".