In the latest advisory the National Hurricane Center said: "The centre of Florence will approach the coasts of North and SC later tonight, then move near or over the coast of southern North Carolina and northeastern SC in the hurricane warning area on Friday. There is overwash but nothing we are not used to", she said. In South Carolina there were 7,000 people staying in shelters, according to the state's emergency management office. The storm, they warned for the final time, was not to be played with. Stay on guard. This is a powerful storm that can kill.
Florence's top winds were clocked on Thursday evening at 90 miles per hour (150 km/h) as it churned in the Atlantic Ocean, down from a peak of 140 miles per hour (224 km/h) earlier this week when it was classified a Category 4 storm.
"If you find yourself here [in rising floodwaters], you need to get out", she said.
"So if there if a storm surge of ten feet at high tide which is plus two feet above the North Carolina sea level so the storm surge would mean that you will be at twelve feet and then the waves would be in addition to that", says Young.
With Florence moving slowly and stalling, the storm surge is going to be a bigger, longer-term factor than normal because the water "just keeps piling up", Needham said.
By midday, Spanish moss blew sideways in the trees as the winds increased in Wilmington. Along the coast, fewer homes have flood insurance than five years ago. Mostly people are getting better at evacuating, with three-quarters of the Florida Keys fleeing before Irma, Masters said.
Hurricane Florence will be one of the biggest storms to make landfall along the USA eastern seaboard in decades.
"We're a little anxious about the storm surge so we came down to see what the river is doing now", said Linda Smith, 67, a retired nonprofit director.More news: Florence triggers disaster declaration for North Carolina
The National Hurricane Center said Florence will eventually break up over the southern Appalachians and make a right hook to the northeast, its rainy remnants moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England by the middle of next week. "Whether you have a house or not, when the storm comes it will bring everyone together".
The head of Duke Energy Corp.'s North Carolina operations says it could take weeks to restore electricity if the company's prediction that 1 million to 3 million of its 4 million customers lose power.
"I have no generator", said Petra Langston, a nurse.
The NHC said the threat of tornadoes was increasing as Florence neared shore and South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said the heavy rain could trigger landslides in the west of his state.
Is global warming to blame?
Hurricane Florence is on a path of destruction that will put millions of people at risk and threaten billions of dollars in property damage, centered on the Carolinas.
The relationship between climate change and hurricanes is a complex one.
Frustrated after evacuating his beach home for a storm that has since been downgraded, retired nurse Frederick Fisher grumbled in the lobby of a hotel in Wilmington several miles inland. "If I can't get back in a week, after a while they might turn on each other or trash the place".