The big slosh has begun, and the consequences could be disastrous.
Hurricane-force winds, which stretch up to 80 miles from the storm's center, will be felt in North and SC by Thursday night.
RAINFALL: Florence is expected to produce heavy and excessive rainfall in the following areas...
The hurricane centers best guess was that Florences eye would blow ashore as early as Friday afternoon around the North Carolina-South Carolina line. That reduced Florence from a Category 4 to a Category 2 hurricane, but forecasters warned that the widening storm - and its likelihood of lingering around the coast day after day after day - will bring surging ocean water and torrential rain.
Leaders of the states in the path of the storm have warned people all week to evacuate the most susceptible areas. Stay on guard. This is a powerful storm that can kill. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.
Hurricane Florence has developed into a major storm over extremely warm water, Ginis said.
Continue to monitor the latest National Hurricane Center forecasts, as further changes in the track forecast and associated impacts could occur.
Hurricane Florence: Storm downgraded but threat remains
More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm began buffeting the coast, and more than 12,000 were in shelters. Heavy rains were forecast to extend into the Appalachians, affecting parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.
As Florence reaches landfall, storm surges are the biggest concern, with 49% of U.S. hurricane deaths attributed to surges.
The city said two Federal Emergency Management Agency teams were working on swift-water rescues and more were on the way.
In his latest Facebook post, Mr Nolan said that it looks increasingly likely that hurricane Helene will make landfall in Ireland at some point between 14:00 on Monday and 02:00 on Tuesday next. Some of the few people still left in Nags Head on the Outer Banks took photos of angry waves topped with white froth.
Wilmington resident Julie Terrell was plenty concerned after walking to breakfast past a row of shops fortified with boards, sandbags and hurricane shutters.
"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. "You can't stop Mother Nature". That's enough water to fill the Empire State Building almost 40,000 times.
"We're just trying to plan for the future here, not having a house for an extended period of time", David Garrigus said. "A storm can come and wipe your house out overnight".
One electricity company fears that three-quarters of its four million customers will lose power as a result of the storm, and may not be reconnected for weeks.
"We are ready, but this is going to be one of the biggest ones to ever hit our country", said the president.
As of 9 a.m. Thursday, Hurricane Florence has grown in size to almost 650 miles wide. This morning, hurricane force-winds now extend up to 80 miles from the center of the storm with tropical storm-force winds out 195 miles. North Myrtle Beach could see a storm surge between 6 and 9 feet.
And Cooper said the state is expecting significant flooding even after the storm passes. Forecasters worry the storm's damage will be worse if it lingers on the coast.