"Just because the wind speeds came down, the intensity of this storm came down to a Category 2, please do not let your guard down", said FEMA Administrator Brock Long. "Be careful!" Trump tweeted. "Thinking about those who will be effected (sic) and hoping everyone stays safe". Millions of people were expected to lose power from the storm and restoration could take weeks.
More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate - but the window to do so in nearly over. "It's a big one", he said at the White House. "We'll handle it. We're ready, we're able. Protection of life is the absolute highest priority and that's what we are doing".
Florence is forecast to dump up to 40 inches (one meter) of rain in some areas after it makes landfall in North and South Carolina Thursday night or Friday.
The NHC notes that amount of rainfall would "produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding".
Boeing evacuated several new 787-10 Dreamliner jets from its factory in North Charleston, South Carolina, to protect them from the storm.
On Thursday morning, Florence was spotted 378 km east southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 450 km east southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, moving northwest at 28 kph.
Florence, which is now a slow-moving Category 2 storm, is expected to linger over the Carolinas before turning north and sliding into western Virginia. As of Thursday afternoon the storm was generating sustained winds of 105mph, as storm surge water has begun to rush into homes and streets along beachside communities. As the storm moves inland it will find a relatively flat area for hundreds of miles.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, concerned the storm would bring its devastation south, issued an emergency declaration for all 159 counties in his state. With Hurricane Florence set to wallop the area as a Category 4 hurricane, there are fears the ponds could overflow or even collapse amid extremely heavy rain, sending vast amounts of manure from thousands of farms into rivers and contaminating groundwater. "There's nobody left to work".
"But I'm not afraid", he said. "The building's solid and Buddha will protect us".
"What to do when a hurricane is barreling towards you, school is cancelled for the week, + kids are faaaareaking out?" she wrote on the social media site. "It's called Mother Nature".
"Everything is packed", Espinoza said. "I never got the sense that I needed to leave".
Korea War veteran, Ed Coddington, 83, second from right, and wife Esther, 78, wait with Markia McCleod, rear, her aunt Ernestine McCleod and daughter Keymoni, 4, in a shelter for Hurricane Florence to pass after evacuating from their nearby homes in Conway, S.C., Sept 12, 2018. "If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have minded staying here".
Models agree the storm should strike land between the North Carolina-South Carolina border and the North Carolina Outer Banks, and then track across South Carolina.
This same zone will be hammered by winds gusting up to hurricane force for almost a day while tropical-storm conditions could linger twice that long.