Forecasters are predicting that Florence will make landfall in the Carolinas late Thursday or early Friday as a still powerful Category 3 hurricane.
Forecast models have said that several feet of heavy rain could cause flooding well inland from the coast. Florence's long coastal tour could take as long as two and a half days. Forecasts predict as much as 20 inches of rain in some places but one computer model warned there could be up to 45 inches, almost four feet.
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.
However some residents have made a decision to board up their homes and ride out the storm.
North Carolina governor Roy Cooper told locals not to "bet your life on riding out a monster", with ferocious winds set to batter the shoreline.
He cited forecasts showing Florence was likely to stall over North Carolina, "bringing days and days of rain".
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster on Monday ordered the mandatory evacuation of one million coastal residents.
While some of the computer forecasting models conflicted, the latest projections more or less showed the storm shifting southward and westward in a way that suddenly put more of SC in danger and imperilled Georgia, too. A lot of people hearing this are remembering Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
A state of emergency has been declared in D.C. and in states, including Virginia and the Carolina's.
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"It's going to be bad", said Woody White, chairman of the New Hanover County Commissioners.
Days before its arrival, Florence was already disrupting commercial operations.
Smithfield Foods Inc said it would shut down the world's largest hog-slaughtering facility in Tar Heel, North Carolina, on Thursday and Friday due to the hurricane. The 63-year-old said he lives "right smack in the middle" of Cape Fear River but is prepared with pre-cooked meals, water, a rain barrel and other essentials. Many gasoline stations were running low on fuel.
By Saturday, total rainfall could accumulate to 20 inches (51 centimeters) - or even 30 inches in places - in parts of the Carolinas and Virginia, the NHC said.
Marshall: You mentioned some hefty winds here in the Charlotte area. "Everyone was sold out", she said.
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On Wednesday morning, the storm was about 550 miles from the Carolina coast and remains a Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds. As a strong member of these communities, we are in the position to offer this service to our friends who are in harm's way".
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He said that North Carolinians should obey evacuation orders, as Florence is expected to affect millions in both North and SC . This could add another metre or more of surge, which is forecast to be as high as four metres in some parts of North Carolina.
Hurricane Florence threatens millions on US East Coast
Speaking in the Oval Office alongside Trump, FEMA administrator Brock Long said Florence may be a "very devastating storm". President Donald Trump declared states of emergency for North and SC and Virginia , opening the way for federal aid.
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