About 1.7 million residents have been urged to flee from parts of North and SC.
However, her agency was prepared to assist neighboring SC and North Carolina, which are in the landfall bullseye for Category 4 Hurricane Florence, according to some computer models.
Forecasters said parts of North Carolina could get 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain, if not more, with as much as 10 inches (25 centimeters) elsewhere in the state and in Virginia, parts of Maryland and Washington, D.C. Just adding up the store bases in North and SC and Virginia is an oversimplification, he argues, while his research suggests that only low- to mid-single-digit percentages of most companies' stores will be affected.
The eastbound lanes of several major highways have been shut to allow traffic to flow inland, but the exodus was slow along roads jammed with outward-bound vehicles.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster ordered the mandatory evacuation of one million coastal residents.
With South Carolina's beach towns more in the bull's-eye because of the shifting forecast, OH vacationers Chris and Nicole Roland put off their departure from North Myrtle Beach to get the maximum amount of time on the sand.
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"It's surreal to think we may have nothing to go home to", she said. "There's nobody left to work". "You can't stop Mother Nature".
In a trailer park outside Wilmington, Alondra Espinoza was preparing to leave with her two young children. "If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have minded staying here".
The National Hurricane Center says the waves were measured by satellite.
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.
"It now looks increasingly possible that Florence will stay near the coast (either inland or just offshore) for a day or longer, perhaps moving southwest along the coast".
Lauren Hancock, a resident of Wrightsville Beach in the state's evacuation zone, said: "I'm looking across the street at a gas station, and it's a madhouse".
Forecasters say the center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Wednesday, and approach the coast of the Carolinas in the hurricane warning area on Thursday and Friday.