For almost two centuries, a historic home sat along a quiet stretch of Main Street here overlooking the Lumber River. One emergency official said it will be a "Mike Tyson punch" to the area. Pugh and his wife had no choice but to flee, taking with them only their dogs and a couple of bags of clothes. Unsure of what they might find when they return home, the couple went shopping for a recreational vehicle.
Even the thousands of emergency workers on scene - ranging from power workers to National Guardsmen to cops, many of them volunteers from across the country - could only sit and wait for Florence to do its worst before they could do their best.
Enough rain could fall to break North Carolina's record for a tropical storm - 24 inches - set near Wilmington during Hurricane Floyd in 1999, said Greg Carbin, chief of forecast operations at the Weather Service's national prediction center.
"This is a horrific nightmare storm from a meteorological perspective", University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd said. "Going on two years and here comes another hurricane".
The hurricane's surge could cover large swathes of the Carolina coast under as much as 11ft (3.3m) of seawater. He added later, "Most of the fatalities in these tropical systems is water".
Most of the businesses along Main Street are deserted. As the recovery from past storms continues in many rural towns, the next storm is about to strike.
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Body surfer Andrew Vanotteren, of Savannah, Georgia, crashes into waves in the surf bolstered by the incoming Hurricane Florence on the south beach of Tybee Island, Georgia.
Florence's top sustained wind speeds dropped from a high of 140 miles per hour (225 kph) to 110 miles per hour (175 kph) as its outer rain bands approached the North Carolina coast early Thursday, reducing the storm from Category 4 to Category 2, but forecasters warned that the enormous wind field has been growing larger, raising the risk of the ocean surging on to land.
"Leave it in the Lord's hands".
"People who have spent their whole career here who have not seen an event like Florence", she said.
Hardin says it's been tough to watch the community struggle to bounce back.
The first image carries a caption that the hurricane is so massive that the only way to get it in the entire frame was to use a super wide-angle lens.
"It doesn't matter how much money you have or how many generators you have if you can't get gas", she said.
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Joseph Rushmore for HuffPost Matthew Peterson has his SUV packed and was loading up his pickup as his family prepared to evacuate their home in Lumberton, North Carolina, on Thursday.
Some could lose power for only a short time, others for weeks.
North Carolina is also home to lagoons that contain manure from the state's hog and poultry industries. The recurring hurricane annual threat has made Peterson rethink where he lives.
"We're avoiding euthanasia at all costs", Pender County Animal Shelter manager Jewel Horton told The Washington Post.
It is a Coast Guard station located 34 miles off the coast of North Carolina. That forecast area also includes part of southwest Virginia.
By early evening, almost 70,000 residents were without electricity, according to North Carolina Emergency Management. The work is far from finished.
"It will be historic", Baker said of the rain from Florence.
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