A tropical storm warning is in effect for north of Duck, NC, to Cape Charles Light, VA, for Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort, and for Edisto Beach, SC, to South Santee River, SC.
The National Hurricane Center says "a life-threatening storm surge is now likely" along the North and SC coasts as Hurricane Florence approaches the US eastern seaboard.
Being such a small number, first responders have made clear to them the situation when the storm makes its expected complete landfall by 8 a.m. Friday morning.
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.
Waves from Hurricane Florence pound the Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle, N.C., September 13, 2018.
National Weather Service forecaster Brandon Locklear predicted Florence would drop up to eight months of rain in two or three days.
Florence was downgraded to a Category 1 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale on Thursday evening and was moving west at only 6 miles per hour (9 km/h).
Meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com said Florence could dump a staggering 18 trillion gallons (68 trillion liters) of rain over a week on North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland.
A gauge in the city of 30,000 people showed the Neuse River was recording 9.6 feet of inundation, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said.
And because Hurricane Florence has the potential to stall, it could inflict a lot more damage and cause more severe flooding in North Carolina than Floyd did 19 years ago.
At least 150,000 people were without power in North Carolina early on Friday with the brunt of the storm yet to come, according to utility companies. Stay on guard. This is a powerful storm that can kill.
No area in the USA would be able to easily deal with Hurricane Florence, but the communities in its path this time are more vulnerable than in the past.
Around midday, Spanish moss blew sideways in the trees as the winds increased in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City.
Rescue helicopters and trucks that can navigate floodwaters are also standing by.
In Wilmington, residents who had decided not to evacuate were lining up to get ice from a vending machine - $2 for a 16-pound (7.2-kilo) bag.
S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster did not mince words Thursday, delivering a dire message to coastal residents who have chosen to remain in their homes despite repeated warnings to leave as Hurricane Florence moved toward the state. "There is overwash but nothing we are not used to", she said.
"There's going to be really nowhere for anybody to go", said Chief House with Wrightsville Beach Police.
President Donald Trump has said protecting lives is his "absolute highest priority" and that the White House is standing by to offer affected states whatever help they ask for.
"Either no (hotel) rooms are available, or we are denied because the breed or size of dogs", she said. "We're fully prepared. Food, medical, everything you can imagine, we are ready".
In its 0300 GMT advisory, the National Hurricane Center said the maximum sustained winds of Florence were 90 miles per hour (150 kilometers per hour), dropping it to the weakest of five categories on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
Bloomberg via Getty Images Shoppers wait in line to be served at the pharmacy of a Walmart Inc. store ahead of Hurricane Florence in Charlotte, North Carolina.