The storm has sustained wind speeds of 90 miles per hour, and 40 inches of rain could fall over the next few days, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Not everyone was taking Florence too seriously: About two dozen locals gathered Thursday night behind the boarded-up windows of The Barbary Coast bar as Florence blew into Wilmington.
"Florence is an uninvited brute who doesn't want to leave", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper told NPR's Morning Edition.
The effects of Hurricane Florence can already be felt along the coast of North Carolina as of 12 p.m. on September 13.
More than one million people had been ordered to evacuate the coasts of North and SC and Virginia and thousands moved to emergency shelters, officials said.
And about 46 miles north of Emerald Isle in New Bern about 150 people were waiting to be rescued from rising flood waters, WXII-TV reported.
New Bern resident Latasha Jones is one of the more fortunate ones.
"You can see there's fish floating around in here", she said. "We were anxious about the hurricane, had it continued to be as strong as what they were originally stating".
The hurricane centre also said the threat of tornadoes was increasing as the storm neared shore. We have steps on the sides of the house so it's a few feet off the ground anyway. But Outlaw said on Friday morning it's "not a bad idea to get in your auto and get west of I-95" if residents feel they can safely do so.
Image: Waters come ashore in Avon, North Carolina.
Officials have assured them they will be rescued by FEMA teams who are ready to do swift water rescue. Ballance called the rainfall "biblical", saying he's gotten reports from friends that his downtown seafood restaurant was flooded, just like the rest of the small city's historic downtown, and he's anxious about the hundreds of people who needed to be rescued overnight in the city.
The center of Florence will approach the coasts of North and SC on Thursday, then move near or over the coast of southern North Carolina and eastern SC on Thursday night and Friday, the NHC added.
Hurricane Florence approaches the U.S. Southeast Coast, where it is expected to make landfall on the border between North and SC this morning (Sept. 14), according to NOAA.
The center said the threat of freshwater flooding will increase over the next several days.
Footage shows a pier and a beach in Nags Head, North Carolina, being hit with heavy surf as the storm rolls into the area.
Mr Cooper's office said the current emergency declaration was helping state officials prepare for the storm.
Hundreds of thousands of people in the Carolinas and Virginia have been forced to evacuate as Hurricane Florence battered the eastern coast of the United States, including more than 3,000 prisoners who have been relocated from jails in the path of Florence. The slow forward motion means Florence will batter the area with heavy rainfall, producing up to 40 inches in coastal North Carolina and northeastern SC. "Significant river flooding is expected as a result of excessive rainfall across area hydrologic basins".