The National Hurricane Center (NHC) downgraded it to a tropical storm on Friday, but warned it would dump as much as 30 to 40 inches (76-102 cm) of rain on the southeastern coast of North Carolina and part of northeastern SC.
Florence had maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour (215 km per hour) and was on a trajectory that showed its center most likely to strike the southern coast of North Carolina by Friday, the National Hurricane Center said.
Fears about Hurricane Florence spread south on Wednesday, with Georgia declaring a state of emergency after officials in the Carolinas urged people to evacuate the coast ahead of the storm's expected pounding winds and rain-driven floods.
"Heed the warnings", said Byard, adding there was "well over $20 billion" in FEMA's disaster relief fund.
A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Coastal North Carolina may receive up to 40 inches (100 centimeters) of rain, the National Hurricane Center said.
More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate the coastlines of the Carolinas and Virginia while schools and factories were being shuttered.
In Pender County, North Carolina, a woman suffered a fatal heart attack; paramedics trying to reach her were blocked by debris.
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"Between the lines: Hurricane Florence could become the strongest hurricane on record to strike so far north if it makes landfall north of the border between SC and North Carolina as a Category 4 or 5 storm".
He says the time to flee Hurricane Florence is now.
Henry McMaster lifted the mandatory evacuation order for Beaufort, Jasper and Colleton counties Tuesday morning.
Duke Energy, the nation's No. 2 power company, said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks. Governors of those states have already declared states of emergency, as have the governors of Virginia and Maryland.
Florence is the most risky of three tropical systems in the Atlantic.
News that the storm could plow through SC after landfall came shortly after McMaster lifted his mandatory-evacuation order for Beaufort County and many other areas south of Charleston.
It was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane before coming ashore near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, North Carolina.
The storm surge, or wind-driven seawater, poses a huge danger, FEMA Administrator Brock Long warned on ABC's "Good Morning America". "I'm a little bit scared right now", she said, "but I have my iPad and I'm watching Netflix". With that much size and strength, even a glancing blow could be devastating - something forecasters stressed as they noted the shift in the predicted track.
President Trump chimed in Wednesday, warning residents of afflicted areas to "be ready, be prepared!"