Strong winds, storm surge, and flash flooding are major concerns for Florence and rains in excess of 20 inches can be expected in the Cape Fear region.
While the storm's maximum sustained winds edged lower on Wednesday, those of tropical-storm-force expanded outward, extending 195 miles and putting more people at risk when the storm finally comes ashore, expected near the border separating the Carolinas.
"Forecasts generally project the storm to make landfall between northern SC and North Carolina's Outer Banks as a strong Category 3 on Thursday, although shifts in the track are possible and storm impacts will expand great distances beyond where landfall occurs". In Myrtle Beach, S.C., and nearby areas, the surge could hit 6-9 feet.
With Hurricane Florence churning toward the East Coast, NASA released a stunning video and photos of the storm from space.
People in areas vulnerable to a risky hurricane have left or are fleeing ahead of the storm's expected Friday or Saturday landfall. "Now it might be time for the exam", Baxley said late in the morning.
"A motion toward the northwest is forecast to begin by this afternoon and continue through Thursday", the hurricane center says.
More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate the coastlines of the Carolinas and Virginia. The only exception was Edisto Beach - that and other areas to the north remain under evacuation orders. By late Wednesday, authorities in North Carolina reported almost 7,000 evacuees staying in 71 emergency shelters throughout the state. "He lives in North Carolina".
In Wilmington, the fire department is urging people to prepare for at least seven days of hardship, collecting water and nonperishable foods.More news: Florence sits on doorstep of Carolinas with projected winds of 100mph
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The ocean waters that Florence is travelling over are about 2.7 degrees (1.5 degrees Celsius) warmer than normal, McNoldy said.
Satellite images show the storm has maintained a distinct eye and is well organized.
Tropical storm-force winds extended 195 miles (315 kilometers) from Florence's center, and hurricane-force winds reached out 70 miles (110 kilometers).
Right now, it is looking more likely that Florence will stall VERY close to shore Thursday evening, delaying a technical landfall of the eye/center to sometime Friday or even early Saturday.
The slow movement, combined with the massive amount of moisture this storm holds, will bring risky rains - from 20 to 30 inches in coastal North Carolina, with 40 inches possible in isolated areas, the weather service says.
Florence will bring large rainfall totals through Saturday in North Carolina, north SC and Virginia, causing catastrophic flash flooding.
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 U.S. after Saturday.
The impact of storm surge on the coast will depend on whether the storm's arrival coincides with high tide.
Speaking about the Wilmington area and its surrounding beaches in North Carolina, a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) official said the inland flooding threat was "extreme".