Forecasters with the National Hurricane Center said that while Florence is expected to slow down considerably by late Thursday and into Friday, it will still be an "extremely unsafe major hurricane" when it makes landfall.
On the forecast track, the center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlanta Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas today, and approach the coast of North Carolina or SC on Thursday or Friday, and move slowly near the coastline through Saturday.
Officials in New Hanover County, which includes Wilmington, have stockpiled enough food and water for 60,000 people for four days, along with more than 28,000 tarps.
A number of other businesses, including Sam's Club, Lowe's, and a range of local retailers across North Carolina and SC, were shut down or were planning to shut down ahead of the storm.
Beaufort County Emergency Management Division commander Neil Baxley said at an 11:30 a.m. press conference that the National Weather Service alerted him that the earliest reasonable time that Beaufort County could start seeing early storm conditions is "sometime around mid-day" Thursday.
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"That's a huge gap", she said.
Updated NHC forecasts showed the storm lingering near the coast, bringing days of heavy rains that could bring intense inland flooding from SC, where some areas could see as much as 40 inches (1m) of rain, to Virginia.
"Any flooding issues we have today are only going to get worse", Young said. Florence could bring life-threatening storm surges, up to 13 feet.
President Trump chimed in Wednesday, warning residents of afflicted areas to "be ready, be prepared!" "Heed those warnings and evacuate if you're in one of the zones".
The storm looked likely to make landfall on the coast of North and SC but heavy rain was also expected in Virginia to the north and Georgia to the south.
REUTERS/Randall HillResidents prepare a house with storm shutters ahead of Hurricane Florence in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, U.S. September 12, 2018.
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The Federal Emergency Management Agency warned that storm surge watches and warnings are in effect Wednesday for the entire North Carolina coast and parts of SC.
The storm may stall over SC and North Carolina, dump several feet of rain, and trigger widespread flooding.
"Cooper, the governor of North Carolina, cautioned that high winds and floodwaters could knock power out "for several days if not longer".
The last hurricane rated a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson to plow directly into North Carolina was Hazel in 1954, a devastating storm that killed 19 people.
"He was thinking of coming here until this morning, and now he asked me if I wanted to come up there", he said.
In all, an estimated 10 million people live in areas expected to be placed under a hurricane or storm advisory, according to the U.S. Weather Prediction Center. The storm is expected to slow down, stall and then perhaps wander just off the Carolina shore as it nears the coast Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Florence isn’t alone. More tropical storms are brewing
Forecasters said Isaac will bring several inches of rain to some locations and possibly life-threatening surf conditions. At 5 a.m., the storm was centered 575 miles (925 km) southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving at 17 mph (28 kph).
"Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said 59 shelters were either opened or will open by Thursday in his state and he urged residents in the areas expected to be hard hit to be vigilant".