Forecasters said Florence's eye could come ashore early on Friday around the North Carolina-South Carolina border.
The National Hurricane Center warned the threat of tornadoes was increasing as Florence neared shore and South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said the heavy rains could trigger landslides in the western part of his state.
"The magnitude of the storm is beyond what we have seen in years", said Howard Fowler, Duke Energy's incident commander. He added later, "Most of the fatalities in these tropical systems is water".
As of 8am local time, it was centred about 170 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and about 220 miles east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, moving north west at 12mph.
By late Thursday afternoon, the Carolina coasts can expect winds topping 80 miles per hour.
Despite having been downgraded earlier on Thursday from a more unsafe category 3 (with 111-129mph winds), weather experts still plea USA citizens for caution.
"I'm not approaching Florence from fear or panic", said Brad Corpening, 35, who planned to ride out the storm in his boarded-up delicatessen in Wilmington. "And that will produce a lot of damage as well as prolong the beach erosion".
"Ever stared down the gaping eye of a Category 4 hurricane?".
Despite the drop in maximum sustained winds, forecasters stress that this hurricane is not to be taken lightly.
Some people, such as Jennie, are refusing to heed evacuation warnings. Officials are urging others in its path to follow suit, or prepare for the worst.
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As of Thursday morning, forecast models showed the storm bringing more rain than originally thought - officials now predict 35 inches of rain will fall in a two-day period as Florence, now a Category 2 storm with 110 miles per hour sustained winds, will stall over Wilmington after making landfall early Friday morning.
Hurricane Florence is coming.
CoreLogic, a global property firm, has predicted that 759,000 homes on North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are at risk of storm surge damage with a potential rebuild cost of $170.2 billion.
But the danger comes not so much from the wind as from the storm surges, which could raise the sea level to 4 meters in some points and flood the coast.
"What is more unusual is the amount of storms; there are now four named storms in the Atlantic, last seen simultaneously back in 2008".
People fleeing coastal North and SC clogged highways early Wednesday as Florence bore down on the coast for a direct hit in a low-lying region dense with beachfront vacation homes. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.
According to the NHC's forecast discussion at 12 p.m. on September 13: "The subtropical ridge to the northeast and east of Florence is now well-established between Bermuda and the USA mid-Atlantic region and extends westward into Virginia and the central Appalachians".
Winds were already picking up along the coastline on Thursday morning and some minor flooding was reported on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and in some coastal towns.
Despite the fact that the hurricane has been downgraded to Category 2, the 80 miles per hour winds and coastal flooding will still cause significant damage throughout the southeast.
Hurricanes are defined in a collection of five "categories" on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with category 2 ones being characterised by winds ranging between 96-110mph.
"Extremely risky winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage". Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads.