The category 4 storm carrying maximum sustained winds of 215 km/h would probably strike the southern coast of North Carolina by late Thursday or early Friday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
As of 8 a.m. EDT it was centred about 170 miles (275 kilometres) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and about 220 miles (355 kilometres) east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, moving northwest at 12 mph (20 kph).
Florence was downgraded Wednesday to a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 120 miles per hour.
Hurricane Helene and Tropical Storm Joyce are far out in the Atlantic and pose no immediate threat to land, forecasters said. Hurricane Florence deserves all the names it's being called as it threatens to cause historic flooding, blow catastrophic winds and idle for days over the Carolinas and the Mid-Atlantic.
A steady stream of vehicles full of people and belongings flowed inland on Tuesday, and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper tried to convince everyone to flee.
Saturday's scheduled game between SC and Marshall has been canceled.
This is when Hurricane Florence is expected to be closest to us.
Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington states have all already declared states of emergency ahead of the storm.
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"This is no ordinary storm, and people could be without power for a very long time - not days but weeks", a president of one energy company in North Carolina said on Wednesday.
In Virginia, where about 245,000 residents were ordered to evacuate low-lying areas, officials urged people to remain away from home despite forecast changes showing Florence's path largely missing the state.
The US Coast Guard said it closed the ports of Wilmington and Moorehead City in North Carolina and restricted port operations in Charleston, South Carolina. However, the center of Florence could hit as early as Thursday night rather than Friday morning, according to the latest NOAA estimates at the time of this writing.
Marshall: Well, if it does follow the path of come more toward Charlotte, when can we expect to see the greatest effect here in the Charlotte region?
Usually when a storm approaches the coast, forecasters can tell with ever increasing accuracy where it will hit and who will get walloped.
Woody White, commissioner for New Hanover County, North Carolina, said: "It's going to be bad".
And there's "a huge difference" in the size and type of damage Florence inflicts if it stays 50 miles (80 kilometers) off shore versus heading inland immediately, Landsea said.
The prison, home to nearly 1,000 prisoners and up to 119 staff, was ordered to stay put even during an initial mandatory evacuation for surrounding Jasper County.