An American Red Cross aid worker walks through the cafeteria at Conway High School which is being used as a Hurricane Florence evacuation shelter at Conway High School on September 13, 2018 in Conway, South Carolina.
The Miami-based center says the center of the eye moved ashore with top sustained winds of 90 miles per hour (150 kph), making Florence a Category 1 hurricane in terms of wind intensity.
The NHC said tropical storm-force winds will hit North and SC with full force on Thursday evening. Early Thursday footage showed stormy seas and dark skies, with an American flag whipping in the wind.
"I hope we don't but that might be the only thing that would affect us", James said. "I'm going to Charlotte".
Florence was moving west-southwest at about 5 miles per hour (7 km/h), with its centre located over eastern SC.
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"Sometime Friday afternoon, Friday evening or Saturday morning", Goldstein said. He added later, "Most of the fatalities in these tropical systems is water".
Roads and intersections on North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands were already inundated with water.
Janey Camp, a research associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Vanderbilt University, said the "biggest concern" for those not along the coast "is the deluge of precipitation that comes with" hurricanes. We've assembled a list of options below and will update it as we find more.
It is unclear exactly how many people fled, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out. Anyone in an evacuation zone in the Carolinas and Virginia must leave NOW if they haven't yet.
Elder relatives carry as much weight as meteorologists in a tight-knit community of slave descendants on the SC coast. Emergency declarations were in force in Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Time is running short to get out of the way of Hurricane Florence, a monster of a storm that has a region of more than 10 million people in its potentially devastating sights.
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"We call them disasters because they break things", said FEMA's Long.
The National Hurricane Center says the outer rain bands of Hurricane Florence are approaching the coast of North Carolina. Florence has weakened a bit over 24 hours, but it's also grown even larger - and it will likely dump torrential rain over North and SC through Monday. "We will have catastrophic effects".
Not everybody was heeding orders to evacuate, however.
The storm has a wide reach, too.
She says people often want to get outside and take pictures.
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