Cooper and his SC counterpart, Henry McMaster, told the more than 1 million people who have been told to leave that if they don't, they are on their own. They also instituted a 24-hour curfew.
Mayor Joe Benson said the storm will batter the oceanside town through two high tide periods.
NHC Director Ken Graham said on Facebook the storm surges could push in as far as 2 miles (3 km). "You need to go on and get out now". "Flooding is nearly guaranteed".
While the storm may have slowed down slightly, it will still bring life-threatening storm surges, high winds, massive flooding and power cuts as it makes landfall on the coast of North and SC.
"The combination of a risky storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline", according to the National Hurricane Center. Additionally, tornadoes could arise in southeast North Carolina on Thursday and Friday. More flights were expected to be grounded and more airports were preparing to shut down operations as the storm moves inland. "So instead of maybe 120 mph winds for 30 minutes, you might end up with 90-100 mph winds for a couple of hours, or three or four hours". It is still considered unsafe with potential for strong winds and hazardous flooding.
The National Weather Service said 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million live in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches. Tropical Storm Isaac is forecast to approach the Lesser Antilles Islands on Thursday.
McMaster told residents in some counties that emergency responders will be pulled from areas expected to be hit hard. "I should stay in my house, where I have water and food". "But no matter how bad it's going to be, it will pass and our job will be to rebuild this community together, and that's what we're going to do". US President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed declarations of emergency for North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, freeing up federal resources for storm response.
"The vast majority of the time the horses know what to do, and they are able to get to higher ground or protect themselves", said Gillikin.More news: Ottawa Senators trade Erik Karlsson to San Jose Sharks
More news: Dont play games with it: Florence takes aim at Carolinas
More news: Time almost up: Fierce Hurricane Florence aims at Southeast - Story | WFLD
Bertha Bradley said she has never favored evacuating ahead of hurricanes. She packed up what she could and took a ferry.
"On a scale of 1 to 10, I'm probably a 7" in terms of worry, she said.
There was also concern over crops. But it's an exclamation point on an unfolding disaster: Wilmington, North Carolina saw 84 days of floods on sunny days in 2016. North and SC already faced flooding earlier this summer.
The contraflow will end Thursday at noon on 501 and at 6 p.m. on I-26.
Up to 1.7 million people are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders, and coastal residents were frantically boarding up homes and businesses and hitting the road on Wednesday as the storm approached.
As of Tuesday, more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out.
With South Carolina's beach towns more in the bull's-eye because of the shifting forecast, OH tourists Chris and Nicole Roland put off their departure from North Myrtle Beach to get the maximum amount of time on the sand.
President Donald Trump declared states of emergency for North and SC and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid.
Early on Wednesday, astronaut Alexander Gerst captured this absolutely stunning image of Florence's eye from the International Space Station, some 250 miles above Earth. "If you are on the coast, there is still time to get out safely". And newly formed Subtropical Storm Joyce is not expected to threaten land soon.