At least 88,000 people were without power in North Carolina with the brunt of the storm yet to come, according to the state's emergency management agency.
Previously classified as a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength, Florence is so far the most severe storm to threaten the U.S. mainland this year and the first of its magnitude to target the Carolinas since 1989 when Hurricane Hugo barreled over Charleston, South Carolina. "I'm going to Charlotte".
Cooper said 108 shelters are open across the state, with more than 7,000 people already staying at them, as of Thursday afternoon.
"Data from an Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter aircraft along with satellite imagery and various intensity estimates indicate that Florence has weakened instead of strengthening".
It diminished from hurricane force as it came ashore, but forecasters said the 350-mile-wide storm's slow progress across North and SC could leave much of the region under water in the coming days.
An American Red Cross aid worker walks through the cafeteria at Conway High School which is being used as a Hurricane Florence evacuation shelter at Conway High School on September 13, 2018 in Conway, South Carolina.
Steve Goldstein with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Florence's forward motion had slowed overnight, and it was not expected to make landfall in the Carolinas for "another 36 hours".
At 15:00 GMT (11:00 am), Florence was over the Atlantic Ocean about 230 km (145 miles) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and moving northwest at 17 kph (10 mph), the NHC said. Purchase your plan early, because you will no longer be able to purchase a policy with coverage for a named storm once it's deemed "foreseeable".
SC officials say more than 400,000 people have evacuated the state's coast and more than 4,000 people have taken refuge in shelters as Hurricane Florence approaches.
A storm surge watch is in effect for Edisto Beach South Carolina to the North Carolina-Virginia border and Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, including the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers.
She says people often want to get outside and take pictures.
The Miami-based center says the center of Florence will approach the coasts of North and SC later today.
Monster storm Hurricane Florence is barreling closer to the coast of the Carolinas.
"A storm surge warning means there is a danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline".
Scientists said it is too soon to say what role, if any, global warming played in the storm. It's now predicted to make landfall near Wilmington and then head west across SC.
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Rain begins to fall as the outer bands of Hurricane Florence make landfall in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on September 13, 2018. We could be here and it actually turns out not to be that bad, but it is better safe than sorry", said the 37-year-old tailor.
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"The sun rose this morning on an extremely risky situation and it's going to get worse", he said at a news conference in Raleigh. More than 722,000 homes and businesses were without power in the Carolinas early on Friday, utility officials said.
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Hurricane Florence from space
Florence's winds have dropped from a peak of 140mph to 105mph, reducing the hurricane from a Category 4 to a Category 2. Resident Jay Manning said he and his wife watched with alarm as water filled the street. "It's a big one", he said.