With South Carolina's beach towns now 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.
Accuweather reported that its meteorologists "believe that the hurricane will stall and meander near the Carolina coast from Thursday night to Saturday".
The "threat of freshwater flooding will increase over the next several days" in the impacted areas. It's expected to move slowly over eastern SC on Friday night through Saturday night.
At 2300 EDT (0300 GMT), the NHC said Florence had maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour (65 km), and was slowly drifting westward over SC. The storm surge could reach up to more than 3.9m, if the maximum surge coincides with high tide. The storm was about 170 miles (275 km) east of Wilmington, North Carolina. "Florence will then recurve across the western Carolinas and the central Appalachian Mountains early next week".
The storm was heading for the coast of the two states but heavy rain was also expected in Virginia to the north and Georgia to the south. But it could have been worse: Labor Day marked the end of the peak tourism season in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and other coastal getaways.
Florence is moving northwest at about 10 miles per hour.
"The forecast shows a storm surge higher than many homes", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.
"There is going to be a lot of rain".
Relentless rain threatens North Carolina agricultural town
The operations were made more perilous by fallen trees and power lines; officials didn't expect power to be restored for weeks. One was electrocuted while hooking up a generator and the other while checking on his dogs outside, emergency officials said.
Forecasters say the storm surge, together with up to 3.5ft (1m) of rain over the next few days, could spawn a slow-motion disaster.
Southeastern coastal North Carolina into far northeastern SC could see 20 to 30 inches of rainfall; some isolated areas could see 40 inches.
Florence will unload up to 40 inches of rain in parts of North Carolina. "This is a life-threatening situation", the advisory said.
Forecasters said that given the storm's size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses and washing over industrial waste sites and hog-manure ponds.
Airlines cancelled almost 1,000 flights and counting.
With flood waters advancing rapidly in many communities, around 50 stranded people had been airlifted out by helicopter in North Carolina, said Petty Officer Michael Himes of the U.S. Coast Guard.
North Carolina and SC are bracing for the onslaught, which could bring storm surges as high as nine feet and rainfall of as much as 40 inches in some areas. President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency on the federal level Tuesday for the Carolinas and Virginia. For a depiction of areas at risk, please see the National Weather Service Storm Surge Watch/Warning Graphic, available at hurricanes.gov. Florence is now expected to begin delivering tropical storm-force winds in the region by early Thursday, escalating to hurricane-force winds by late Thursday or early Friday.
A hurricane warning is in effect for South Santee River, SC, north to Duck, NC, and the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds.