Besides inundating the coast with wind-driven storm surges of seawater as high as 13 feet (4 meters) along the Carolina coast, Florence could dump 20 to 30 inches (51-76 cm) of rain, with up to 40 inches in parts of North Carolina, the NHC said. Tens of thousands were without power.
Heavy rain, gusting winds and rising floodwaters from Hurricane Florence deluged the Carolinas on Thursday as the massive, slow-moving storm crept toward the coastline, threatening millions of people in its path with record rainfall and punishing surf. Heavy rainfall began after dark.
A "major" hurricane is a Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale with sustained winds of at least 111 miles per hour.
Sandbags surround homes on North Topsail Beach, N.C., September 12, 2018, as Hurricane Florence threatens the coast. "With Hurricane Florence, a lot of our line and equipment will be underwater".
"The time to prepare is nearly over", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a morning news conference. "Today the threat becomes a reality".
And if Florence weren't enough, other storms out there are threatening people.
"The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast in areas of onshore winds, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves", the NWS report said. We are on the bad side of this storm.
Duke Energy, a utility serving millions of people in the Carolinas, issued a warning Wednesday, telling citizens that Florence will likely take parts of the grid offline for as long as a month.
As of Tuesday, more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out.
Wilmington resident Julie Terrell was plenty concerned after walking to breakfast past a row of shops fortified with boards, sandbags and hurricane shutters.
"But I'm staying", she said.
TORNADOES: A few tornadoes are possible in eastern and southeastern North Carolina through Friday. That's enough water to fill the Empire State Building almost 40,000 times.
As millions of people in the Carolinas and Virginia prepare for what could be historic damage from Hurricane Florence, people in space are keeping an eye on it from above.
Browns' Gordon (hamstring) out vs. Saints
He's the same guy who caught 87 passes for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013 and earned first-team All-Pro honors. Poor guy missed 2 field goals and 2 extra points and I'd feel bad for him if it had happened against another team.
"I've been through hurricanes before but never with kids", she said.
"We're just trying to plan for the future here, not having a house for an extended period of time", David Garrigus said.
"Bad things can happen when you are talking about a storm this size".
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for...
Emergency preparations included activating more than 2,700 National Guard troops, stockpiling food, setting up shelters, switching traffic patterns so major roads led away from shore, and securing 16 nuclear power reactors in the Carolinas and Virginia.
Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help deal with what could be weeks of power outages in the aftermath, the company said.
It was located about 205 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 250 miles (405 kilometers) east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, moving to the northwest at 15 mph.
A surge is also likely along portions of the SC coast.
Scientists said it is too soon to say what role, if any, global warming played in the storm.
"The primary fuel for hurricanes is a warm sea surface, which is getting warmer with climate change", said Dr Kelly McCusker, a climate scientist at the independent economic research firm Rhodium Group. The storm will arrive on the East Coast sometime Thursday and linger for several days, forecasters say. "I've gotten triple the amount of calls".
Authorities pushed back against any suggestion the storm's threat was exaggerated.
"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.