After criticism for its response in Puerto Rico to last year's Hurricane Maria, which officials there said was responsible for 3,000 deaths, Trump has vowed a vigorous response to Florence and defended his handling of Maria.
Earlier, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration observing site at Cape Lookout, North Carolina, reported sustained winds of 83 miles per hour and a gust of 106 miles per hour.
The barrier island of Emerald Isle is under water, with ocean waves rolling in over a six-foot storm surge and crashing into homes.
- Around 11 p.m. local time, the storm was about 50 miles south of Morehead City, North Carolina, and 60 miles east-southeast of Wilmington.
On Thursday night, city officials in Jacksonville, North Carolina, posted photos of a toppled gas pump and a downed tree after wind gusts exceeded 80 miles per hour, warning residents to stay indoors as the hurricane passes. It has slowed down and will continue to do so moving to the northwest at 5 miles per hour. Forecasters said "catastrophic" freshwater flooding was expected along waterways far from the coast of the Carolinas. Pastor Mike Pitman of Vertical Church says more than 1,600 people joined in with his online prayer event. Water kills more people in hurricanes than wind, and the rain and storm surge will make Florence extremely risky.
"I'm not going to put our personnel in harm's way, especially for people that we've already told to evacuate", Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House said.
Hurricane Watch remains in effect for Charleston and Berkeley Counties, as well as for Charleston Harbor and the nearshore waters adjacent the Charleston County coast Storm Surge Watch remains in effect from Edisto Beach north to South Santee River and Tidal Berkeley County.
With their entire neighbourhood evacuated in Wilmington, North Carolina, David and Janelle Garrigus planned to ride out Florence at their daughter's one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte. This storm is extremely unsafe.
National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham warned that waterways up to 40 miles inland may flood.
The expected high winds and slow movement of the hurricane as it comes ashore are likely to make rescue efforts in flooded areas challenging, senior US Defence Department officials say.
"Surviving this storm will be a test of endurance, teamwork, common sense and patience".
Cooper also requested additional federal disaster assistance in anticipation of what his office called "historic major damage" across the state.
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.
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Prisoners were affected, too.
Up to 1.7 million people have been ordered to evacuate across South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.
The National Weather Service says almost 5 million people could witness at least 10 inches of rain as the slow-moving storm makes slow forward progress.
Around midday, Spanish moss blew sideways in the trees as the winds increased in Wilmington.
Coastal streets flowed with frothy ocean water and tens of thousands lost electricity. The track could shift slightly farther south and west.
With South Carolina's beach towns now more in the bull's-eye because of the shifting forecast, OH vacationers Chris and Nicole Roland put off their departure from North Myrtle Beach to get the maximum amount of time on the sand.
According to some forecasts, Florence is predicted to slow down and stall off the coast of North and SC before moving around off the shore on September 14, Sept. 15, and September 16.
Incredible amounts of water will fall from the sky over the next several days in the Carolinas.
Forecasters said that given the storm's size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses and washing over industrial waste sites and hog-manure ponds.
"We'll operate without power; we have candles".
"This is our only home".
"Even the rescuers can not stay there", he said. "We love you all, we want you safe". We chose to hunker down.