At 5 p.m. Hurricane Florence was located about 310 miles east-northeast of Savannah moving west-northwest at 5 mph with winds of 100 mph. But forecasters warned that the widening storm - and its likelihood of lingering around the coast day after day - will bring seawater surging onto land and torrential downpours.
Hurricanes, on the other hand, stick around much longer.
Another live stream at Wilmington Tower, which usually broadcasts sweeping views of the North Carolina landscape, shows storm clouds rolling in over the ocean.
The governor said those were "early warnings of the days to come".
Duke Energy said it would close a pair of nuclear power reactors at its Brunswick plant on the Cape Fear River, about four miles from Southport, N.C. The company said its procedures required closing the plants when facing sustained 75 mph winds, even though the plants were created to withstand winds of more than 200 mph and a storm surge of 22 feet.
A mother and baby were killed after a tree fell on the family's Wilmington, NC house during the storm. Thousands have taken refuge in emergency shelters, officials said. "We just bought a new house so I'm kinda nervous".
"I end up hearing more negative stories about leaving than staying", Mrs. Mramer said.
In addition to the storm surge, "There is going to be a lot of rain", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said on Thursday. But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind.
Winds and rain were arriving later in SC, and a few people were still walking on the sand at Myrtle Beach while North Carolina was getting pounded. Others got well over a foot.
The North Carolina Pork Council said farmers are moving animals to higher ground and draining waste lagoons to prevent some impacts of flooding.More news: Windows 10 Test Halts Competing Browser Installs, Suggests Edge Instead
Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats that could be used to pluck people from the floodwaters. That brings in the mudslide and landslide threat as well. Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) have warned that failure to do so could be potentially deadly.
Cooper said Florence would spread heavy rainfall across the state for days, even if the storm veers south and comes ashore in South Carolina: "We're on the wrong side of this thing". That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with almost 4 inches (10 centimeters) of water, he calculated.
At the 500-acre North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, workers shepherded a menagerie including elephants, giraffes and chimpanzees indoors, forming a sort of modern-day, stationary Noah's Ark to ride out the flood.
The Wilmington airport had a wind gust clocked at 105 miles per hour (169 kph), the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958. Much of this rain will fall from Thursday night into early next week.
McMaster and state officials urged residents eager to return home to be patient, stressing Florence will be a long-term event, with prolonged river flooding, power outages and road closures likely to extend well into next week. "If you're in a low-lying area, get out", Mac Hodges, the mayor of the town of Washington, told NPR's Brakkton Booker. "Now is the time to get yourself to a safe place and stay there".
Boat teams rescued residents Sadie Marie Holt, 67, who first tried to row out of her neighborhood during Florence's assault. Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles.
"We already bought candles, batteries, can food items, water and so on".
Crew members and boat owners help moor the Miss Janice, a shrimp boat, to the dock at Mitchell Seafood on Wheeler Creek in Sneads Ferry, N.C., on Thursday.
"Honestly, I grew up in Wilmington".
After Hurricane Harvey in Texas, the EPA confirmed that at least one contaminated Superfund site leaked toxic chemicals after the flooding. "And the vast majority of the time they are OK", she said.