Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami don't expect it to strengthen from a Category 2 hurricane before it moves ashore, but they say the real problem will be water as Florence lingers along the coast through Saturday.
The storm's centre was about 145 miles (235 km) east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina as of Thursday night.
"It truly is really about the whole size of this storm", National Hurricane Centre director Ken Graham said.
He said hurricane-force winds extend outward 130 km (80 miles) from the centre of the storm and tropical storm-force winds extend almost 322 km (200 miles) out.
The storm is expected to slowly move into North and SC on Thursday, and conditions are expected to get worse.
FEMA already has been in place, said Tillis, as his state is still recovering from Hurricane Matthew, caused catastrophic flooding in North Carolina when it hit in October 2016.
As many as three million people are expected to lose power. This is a powerful storm that can kill.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a news conference, that a "historic storm" would unleash rains and floods that would inundate nearly the entire state. "Today the threat becomes a reality". Hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles (130 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers). Some 3,000 people died in the aftermath of that storm. As of Thursday, almost a dozen airports have shut down, with more than 1,000 flights being canceled.
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More than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate over the past few days, and the homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions. Christy Hall said that when the I-26 lane reversal begins to be dismantled Thursday evening at 6 p.m., that should not be viewed as an indication the mandatory evacuation has been lifted.
He warned residents to be prepared for mass power outages that could last for days or weeks, echoing the sentiments shared by Duke Energy on Wednesday.
"This is a horrific nightmare storm from a meteorological perspective", University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd said.
Anxious about how the government will respond to Hurricane Florence's devastation?
The police chief of a barrier island in the bull's-eye of Hurricane Florence is warning any stragglers who refused to evacuate that they are making a risky choice. But previous research has shown that the strongest hurricanes are getting wetter, more intense and intensifying faster because of human-caused climate change.
Frustrated after evacuating his beach home for a storm that has since been downgraded, retired nurse Frederick Fisher grumbled in the lobby of a hotel in Wilmington several miles inland.
In the tiny community of Sea Breeze near Wilmington, Roslyn Fleming, 56, made a video of the inlet where her granddaughter was baptized because "I just don't think a lot of this is going to be here" later. "I've got four cats inside the house".