Thank you for signing up for the NOW Newsletter.
On Wednesday morning, the storm was about 550 miles from the Carolina coast and remains a Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds. Landfall was expected sometime late Thursday and FEMA officials said Wednesday was the last day for people to get out safely.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for north of Duck, NC, to the North Carolina/Virginia border.
At 4am BST Wednesday the "monster" storm was centred 670 miles southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving at 17 mph.
Hurricane-force winds now extend up to 80 miles from the eye of the storm, and tropical-storm-force winds now extend up to 195 miles from the center of the storm.
Sheets of rain splattered against windows of a hotel before daybreak in Wilmington, where Sandie Orsa of Wilmington sat in a lobby lit by emergency lights after the power failed.
The police chief of a barrier island in Florence's approach said he was asking for next-of-kin contact information from the few residents who refused to leave.
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.
Where is Hurricane Florence right now?
US Open umpire tells AP he is focusing on 'working again'
Knight posted the cartoon on his Twitter account Monday, but has since disabled it after attracting tens of thousands of comments, a lot of them critical.
Duke Energy, the nation's No. 2 power company, said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for week.
Farther up the coast, in New Bern, about 150 people waited to be rescued from flooding on the Neuse River, WXII-TV reported. But the change was probably temporary and didn't do anything to lessen the danger, said Jeff Byard, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The worst of the storm's fury had yet to reach coastal SC, where emergency managers said it was not too late for people to get out.
"I do worry though about people here because many didn't prepare, you know, because originally they didn't think it was going to be so bad here", Sparks said.
Florence is the most unsafe of three tropical systems in the Atlantic.
About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than 1 million were ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia.
More than 634,000 homes and businesses were without power in North and SC early on Friday, utility officials said. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire. Onshore winds (and obviously very strong near the Outer Banks) are expected since this area will be north of the storm, so unfavorable surf conditions are likely for the majority of the area. The storm is more than likely to develop into a tropical depression and bring several inches of rain to the Houston area.
Speaking at a news conference, the official said the hurricane was expected to spread out into the Central Appalachian mountains, the Tennessee Valley, and southeastern parts of the USA after Saturday.
Lt. Col. Lindy White, an Oklahoma National Guard spokeswoman, said officials from East Coast states are expected to request additional assistance in the days to come.