The National Hurricane Center's best guess was that Florence's eye would blow ashore as early as Friday afternoon around the North Carolina-South Carolina line.
The huge storm weakened to a Category 2 hurricane overnight, but forecasters warned that it still packed a unsafe punch - 110 mile-an-hour (175 kph) winds and torrential rains.
Screaming winds bent trees toward the ground and raindrops flew sideways as Florence's leading edge whipped the Carolina coast Thursday to begin an onslaught that could last for days, leaving a wide area under water from both heavy downpours and rising seas.
MA will not feel too much of an impact from the chaotic storm down south, according to the National Weather Service: "The only impacts in southern New England from Hurricane Florence will be high surf and unsafe rip currents especially on the south coast through Friday".
The Miami-based center said in an update at 11 p.m. that the storm's eye was about 50 miles south of Morehead, City, North Carolina.
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.
"Simply put, when you have tens of thousands of people that are trying to get out of harm's way and they're all filling up at the same time, certainly it overwhelms how much gasoline can be stored.at gas stations".
With South Carolina's beach towns more in the bull's-eye because of the shifting forecast, OH tourists Chris and Nicole Roland put off their departure from North Myrtle Beach to get the maximum amount of time on the sand.
More than 20,000 residents have packed into North Carolina emergency shelters, and officials have told those still in the storm's path to stay in place. Florence will likely weaken to a Category 1 storm on Friday or Saturday.
Hurricane Florence Could Bring Up To 30 Inches Of Rain To Carolinas
"Either no (hotel) rooms are available, or we are denied because the breed or size of dogs", she said.
It is unclear exactly how many people fled, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were urged to evacuate. The more it hovers just off shore, the more potentially deadly storm surge it could push on-shore.
"The forecast shows a storm surge higher than many homes", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said. Hurricane Helene and Subtropical Storm Joyce were off in the Atlantic, posing no threat. He said one in four deaths in these types of storms are caused by the extreme rainfall.
Police patrol past boarded up shops along the boardwalk in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina ahead of Hurricane Florence's arrival. Both North Carolina and SC are updating their lists of emergency shelters for people caught by the storm.
Anxious about how the government will respond to Hurricane Florence's devastation?
Duke Energy said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks.
At the beginning of his tenure at FEMA a year ago, Long started using a staff driver to get him back home to Hickory, North Carolina, according to Politico.
Despite pleas from state and local officials, some residents rejected calls to evacuate.
Forecasters anxious the storm's damage will be all the worse if it lingers on the coast. "He is the only caregiver to me and my son", Browning said.
In the tiny community of Sea Breeze near Wilmington, Roslyn Fleming, 56, made a video of the inlet where her granddaughter was baptized because "I just don't think a lot of this is going to be here" later.
Local woman stays in North Carolina despite arrival of Hurricane Florence
People in areas vulnerable to the unsafe hurricane, particularly those in coastal regions, have fled ahead of the storm. The White House on Saturday said President Donald Trump had approved making federal funding available in some counties.