Forecasters said conditions will only get more lethal as the storm pushes ashore early Friday near the North Carolina-South Carolina line and makes its way slowly inland. Overall, Florence is about 400 miles (644 kilometers) wide.
Florence has it all: Hot ocean temperatures that fuel hurricanes.
Even though the storm's category fell from a 4 to a 2 Wednesday, forecasters stressed the category is only an evaluation of the storm's peak winds in a very narrow core near the center of the storm. Cloud cover that could encompass multiple states.
"I was feeling fine until I woke up this morning and this is a ghost town", said Kristin Beard, a 40-year-old Myrtle Beach marketer. The most severe reading is Category 5. His remarks fell flat in Puerto Rico where islanders are continuing to struggle to recover a year after the Category 4 storm.
Trump provided no evidence to support his challenge on Maria. The Navy, Air Force and Army have been moving people, ships and aircrafts out of harm's way, though evacuations were not mandatory at bases such as Camp Lejeune.
"We moved all the furniture up in case the water comes in but the water seems to be staying at the edge of the driveway", he said, adding that if the wind picks up and the rain keeps coming, that could change. The losses won't be easily or quickly overcome.
SC ordered the mandatory evacuation of one million coastal residents while North Carolina ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks, barrier islands that are a popular tourist destination. There are now fewer tourists to send away.
Rescue crews used boats to carry more than 385 people from rising water in the river town of New Bern, North Carolina, while many of their neighbors still awaited help, according to city spokeswoman Colleen Roberts.
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Authorities warned too of the threat of mudslides and the risk of environmental havoc from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and pig farms.
The eye of Hurricane Florence is spinning off the coast about 205 miles east-southeast of Wilmington.
The flooding soon spread into SC. Only one storm scared them enough to leave the island.
The National Hurricane Centre 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.
In Belhaven, an enclave in far eastern North Carolina, the Pungo River nearly reached the second floor of buildings as the storm moved in, according to video posted on the website of The News & Observer. "Inland flooding kills a lot of people, unfortunately, and that's what we're about to see", he said.
Some Florence evacuees are steering toward Bristol Motor Speedway near the Tennessee-Virginia border and Atlanta Motor Speedway, where campgrounds have been opened for people fleeing the storm. Restoring power to all customers could take weeks, it said.
What would you take if a major hurricane was threatening to inundate or pull apart your home? Other evacuees are sheltering with family and friends or in hotels.
Hurricane warnings are in effect for the South Santee River in SC to Duck, North Carolina, and Albemarle and Pamlico sounds. The shopping list for people who have made a decision to ride out the storm at home: plywood to board up their windows, sandbags, bilge pumps, generators, trash bags, potato chips, bottled water and wine. The utility room of John Hembree and Scot Perkins' Chesapeake home has become a refuge for their neighbor's birds as well as their own chickens, three dogs, turtle and cat.