Hurricane Florence is making landfall in North Carolina, creeping ashore at 6 miles per hour - but bringing winds of 90 miles per hour, a massive storm surge, and a rain system that will soak much of the state and SC for days.
As of the 8 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Florence was 170 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, N.C.
North Carolina and SC are bracing for the onslaught, which could bring storm surges as high as nine feet and rainfall of as much as 40 inches in some areas.
Hurricane-force winds began whipping North Carolina as federal emergency management officials warned that the hurricane remained a "very unsafe storm" capable of wreaking havoc along a wide swathe of the coast. Then, it will likely hover along the coast Saturday, pushing up to four metres of storm surge and dumping water on both states.
"Even after Hurricane Florence makes landfall, it's still forecast to just crawl west over SC, gradually weakening to a tropical storm", said FOX 46 Meteorologist Tara Lane.
About 10 million people live in areas that were under either hurricane or tropical storm warnings and watches Thursday. "Its a big one", he said at the White House.
Hurricane Florence continued to weaken Thursday, but the National Hurricane Center warned there will still be extreme impacts from feet of rainfall in the Carolinas for days.
Delivering a report from Morehead City, North Carolina, Leland Vittert wrapped himself around a lamppost to make sure the powerful gusts did not sweep him off his feet.
"We are ready, but this is going to be one of the biggest ones to ever hit our country", said the president.
Boeing evacuated several new 787-10 Dreamliner jets from its factory in North Charleston, South Carolina, to protect them from the storm.
West Point area could start to feel effects of Hurricane Florence Thursday
It's gaining strength and could even be upgraded to Category 5 before it makes landfall early Friday, according to forecasts. Locals of one seaside resort in North Carolina are maintaining relative calm as they gird for Hurricane Florence.
Schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia, airlines canceled more than 1,500 flights, and coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely emptied out.
With Duke Energy expecting up to 3 million power outages for its 4 million customers, power companies will need an extra hand.
"I ask all Georgians to join me in praying for the safety of our people and all those in the path of Hurricane Florence", Deal said.
Residents of the Carolinas and neighboring states should consult local authorities for any evacuation orders and other preparation guidelines.
Meanwhile, winds and rain were expected to arrive later in SC, and a few people were still walking on the sand at Myrtle Beach while North Carolina was getting pounded.
Forecasters anxious the storm's damage will be all the worse if it lingers on the coast.
"I'm lucky to be here today, but wherever they're going to send me I'm going".
Some in the Carolinas have expressed frustration after evacuating their homes for a storm that was later downgraded - but officials have pushed back at suggestions that Florence's threat has been exaggerated.
Storm surge warnings and hurricane warnings are in effect for all of North Carolina and most of SC. Tropical Storm Isaac is forecast to approach the Lesser Antilles Islands on Thursday.