Updated NHC forecasts showed the storm lingering near the coast of the Carolinas, carrying days of heavy rains that could bring intense inland flooding from SC to Virginia.
As of 11 p.m. EST, the storm was centered 280 miles east southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and was moving northwest at 17 mph.
The National Weather Service is forecasting heavy rainfall Sunday through Tuesday across central SC with flooding potential in the Upstate, northeast Georgia and the mountains of western North Carolina.
The National Weather Service says 14 to 15 inches of rain has already fallen north of Swansboro, North Carolina. "If you are on the coast, there is still time to get out safely".
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's student paper, The Daily Tar Heel, reported that class has been canceled and students have been encouraged to leave the Chapel Hill area before the storm hits.
The storm's surge, the rise in sea water above normally dry land at the coast, could reach up to 13 feet at peak.
The threat has sparked a rush of evacuation efforts in SC and North Carolina, with more than 1 million people urged to get out of Florence's way. "People who live in New Bern have experienced hurricanes before, but it has been a long time since we have experienced something like this". "He lives in North Carolina".
In Columbia, South Carolina, Barry Sparks, a 66-year-old retiree, was thinking of getting out after the path of the storm shifted somewhat to the south.
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At about the same time on September 20, FEMA will also run a test of the Emergency Alert System on television and radio. Everyone will then receive this message in English: "THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System ".
Abigail Darlington, covers the city of Charleston for the South Carolina Post and Courier.
Once it makes landfall, Florence is expected to lash coastal communities with high winds and dump several feet of water.
Even with some weakening that is predicted just before it makes landfall, the storm "is expected to remain a unsafe major hurricane as it approaches the coastline", the hurricane center said. Florence will then move generally northward across the western Carolinas and the central Appalachian Mountains early next week.
Two big fuel pipelines stand in the hurricane's path, but analysts say they think the storm is unlikely to disrupt the flow of gasoline or other products.
On Wednesday morning, Florence was extending hurricane-force winds outward up to 70 miles from its center, with tropical-storm-force winds up to 175 miles outward.
And while take-offs aboard the Gulfstream 4 aircraft are smooth, once they enter a hurricane it's intense, and the flights last for eight hours.
Jeff Byard of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) invoked a former boxing champion to warn residents that Florence would bring "a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast".
The president made his comments in a videotaped message from the White House Rose Garden that he tweeted out on Wednesday morning.