Homeless after losing her job at Walmart three months ago, 25-year-old Brittany Jones went to a storm shelter at a high school near Raleigh.
We've pulled together some of the key elements that explain why officials are so anxious, and what damage Florence could cause.
Forecasters say it could slow dramatically when it nears land and then linger until Saturday, moving unpredictably along the coast and bringing torrential rain.
About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than 1 million had been ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia, jamming westbound roads and highways for miles.
More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm approached, and more than 12,000 were in shelters. We spoke to those braced for Florence's looming arrival.
A zoomed in image of the eye of Hurricane Florence. Water kills more people in hurricanes than wind, and he said it will still be an extremely risky storm for rain and storm surge. One emergency official said it will be a "Mike Tyson punch" to the area.
Susan Faulkenberry Panousis has stayed in her Bald Head Island, North Carolina home during prior hurricanes, but not this time.
A camera at the Frying Pan Tower located 34 miles off the coast of Cape Fear, North Carolina has been livestreaming a view of the Atlantic Ocean since May, and is powering through the storm to dutifully record an American flag over the rising waves.
Overview Trailer - Nintendo Switch
The Nintendo Switch Online service will let subscribers play online multiplayer games such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2 online.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Centre said the storm would weaken after making landfall but also linger, dumping heavy rains for days.
But North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent".
If the storm lingers for a few days, the sheer amount of rainfall could lead to catastrophic flooding. Sand dunes gone storm surge 4' into house knocking down walls first floor.
The images, captured from249 miles above the storm, captured Florence as it draws close to North Carolina's coast.
Tornadoes are possible in eastern North Carolina through Friday.
Dead hogs and chickens were pictured floating in the floodwaters, which had been polluted with agricultural waste and petrol.
Residents of the Carolinas and neighboring states should consult local authorities for any evacuation orders and other preparation guidelines. "What can you do?"
This is why you don't mess with Mother Nature.
"I have no generator", said Petra Langston, a nurse. "It's going to happen".
"Remnants of that system could bring wet weather across western parts of the United Kingdom on Tuesday and we still need to keep an eye on it".