Through the weekend, the massive storm - containing a zone of tropical-storm-force winds almost 400 miles wide - will drift inland, engulfing much of SC and southern North Carolina.
Although the storm is approaching the US coastline as a Category 2 hurricane after weakening from a Category 4 storm, that doesn't mean the storm will be gentle.
Media captionWhy do people ignore hurricane warnings?
"It doesn't matter how much money you have or how many generators you have if you can't get gas", she said.
Florence is now expected to begin delivering tropical storm-force winds in the region by early Thursday, escalating to hurricane-force winds by late Thursday or early Friday.
The homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions.
Florence has it all: Hot ocean temperatures that fuel hurricanes.
Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said Florence eventually could strike as merely a Category 1 hurricane with winds less than 100 miles per hour (160 kph), but that's still enough to cause at least $1 billion in damage. Water kills more people in hurricanes than wind, and he said it will still be an extremely unsafe storm for rain and storm surge.
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She said at the time that back-to-back hurricanes a year ago prompted "the largest domestic disaster response mission in history". A team of researchers at Harvard University announced in May that they believed Hurricane Maria's death toll was 4,600.
U.S. President Donald Trump both touted the government's readiness and urged people to get out of the way. "Dont play games with it. It's a big one".
More than one million people had been ordered to evacuate the coastlines of the Carolinas and Virginia. The shopping list for people who have chose to ride out the storm at home: plywood to board up their windows, sandbags, bilge pumps, generators, trash bags, potato chips, bottled water and wine. The two hardware chains said they sent in a total of around 1,100 trucks. Visit our sister site Live Science for the latest Hurricane Florence forecast. The storm may gradually drift into northeast SC.
In the eastern parts of the Carolinas, Duke says the outages could last several weeks before power is fully restored due to flooding.
But Jeremy Tominack said he stayed so he could keep an eye on his home and help his fellow Wilmington residents after the storm passes.
Boarding up his home in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Chris Pennington watched the forecasts and tried to decide when to leave.
The timing of the official landfall could change with any shift in Florence's track over the next 12-18 hours.
"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.
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Doug Lewis and Chris Williams use plywood to cover the windows of Knuckleheads bar as they try to protect the business ahead of the arrival of Florence.
Here is the latest forecast bubble for the storm ...
The National Hurricane Center said a gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, reported 6.3 feet (1.92 meters) of inundation. "This is a handsome beach here I can't imagine how it's going to be when we come back", homeowner Sheryl Andrews said.
Melody Rawson evacuated her first-floor apartment in Myrtle Beach and arrived at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia, to camp for free with three other adults, her disabled son, two dogs and a pet bird.
"On a scale of 1 to 10, I'm probably a 7" in terms of worry, she said. Three other Southern raceways also opened campgrounds to evacuees.
Florence's weakening as it neared the coast created tension between some who left home and authorities who anxious that the storm could still be deadly. St. Helena Island near the South Carolina-Georgia line is used to riding out big storms - from one that killed an estimated 2,000 people in 1893 to Tropical Storm Irma a year ago. The National Hurricane Center is calling for 20 to 30 inches (50 to 75 centimetres) of rain in North Carolina, with spots up to 40 inches (100 centimetres).
With South Carolina's beach towns 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.
"Its been really nice", Nicole Roland said.
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