"Our greatest concern about this storm remains the same - storm surge and massive flooding", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said in a tweet.
The center of Florence is expected to hit North Carolina's southern coast Friday, then drift southwest before moving inland on Saturday, enough time to drop as much as 40 inches (1 meter) of rain in places, according to the National Hurricane Center. But forecasters warned that the widening storm - and its likelihood of lingering around the coast day after day - will bring seawater surging onto land and torrential downpours. Don't get complacent. Stay on guard.
So far, a state of emergency has been declared in five states - South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Maryland and Washington DC. "I'm going to Charlotte".
After that, Florence is forecast to move northwest and north and move across western SC on Sunday, Sept. 15, and across western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee on Monday, Sept. 16, the NHC said.
McMaster warned that once tropical storm-force winds begin moving in, rescuers will not be able to assist people because the rescuers themselves will be moving to safety.
"Florence was anticipated to make a steady, assured progress directly towards the Carolinas, make landfall, and move directly inland".
Henry McMaster reminded people of the dangers of Hurricane Florence despite an ever-changing forecast now pointing it more towards North Carolina.
While the storm's winds have weakened since Wednesday, making it now a Category 2 storm, its range has grown and its damaging effects are now expected to be felt far inland beyond North Carolina and SC, which will be hit hardest.
Hurricane Florence Hits Outer Banks Home on Stilts With Storm Surge
At least 12,000 people had taken refuge in 126 emergency shelters, Cooper said, with more facilities being opened. ET update that Florence is now a Category 2 storm, but it noted that the storm is quite large in diameter.
Even if Florence were downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, it would still cause extensive damage, Abrams says. Anyone in an evacuation zone in the Carolinas and Virginia must leave NOW if they haven't yet.
A tornado watch was also in effect for parts of North Carolina.
"I said, 'Why get on the road like this?" Florence is a large hurricane. That said, the storm still brought powerful storm surges and risky flooding. A 78-year-old man was electrocuted attempting to connect extension cords while another man died when he was blown down by high winds while checking on his hunting dogs, a county spokesman said.
More than 1.5 million people have been ordered to evacuate along 300 miles of coastline.
From Thursday night through Sunday morning, CNN reported that Florence would travel only 150 miles, or slower than the average walking pace of 2-3 mph.
Florence made landfall at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, at 7:15 a.m. on Friday and left hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses without power in the state. The gradually slowing but still life-threatening storm is moving northwest at 15 miles per hour (24 kph).
Scientists said it is too soon to say what role, if any, global warming played in the storm.