Rivers are expected to burst their banks.Some 1.7 million people have been ordered to evacuate from North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
As of 5 a.m., Florence was centred about 35 kilometres east of Wilmington, North Carolina.
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.
Hurricane Florence's outer edges have started to batter the coast of North Carolina - with winds of 100mph bending trees and shooting frothy seawater onto the streets.
Wild horses in the Rachel Carson Reserve in Beaufort, North Carolina will fend for themselves during Hurricane Florence.
Even though the one-time Category 4 tempest has been downgraded to a Category 2, it's still packing lethal 100-mph winds and the potential for 13-foot storm surges and 40 inches of rain, officials warned.
Because it has it all, including: Hot ocean temperatures that fuel hurricanes; favourable wind patterns; higher sea levels that exacerbate storm surge;cloud cover that could encompass multiple states; and an unusual combination of other weather systems that likely will stall Florence when it hits land, allowing it to sit for days and dump huge amounts of rain.
The NHC's latest statement warned a combination of a unsafe storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas to be flooded, with water levels expected to reach between 7 and 11 feet between Cape Fear and Cape Lookout in North Carolina, and higher in the Neuse, Pamlico, Pungo and Bay Rivers.
Some residents ignored calls to evacuate. "We have a safe basement and generator that comes on automatically".
Duke Energy Corp, the biggest utility in the area with over 4 million customers, estimated the storm could cause between 1 million to 3 million outages.
With the brunt of the slow-moving storm yet to come, about 150 people were awaiting rescue in New Bern, a city near the coast, where a gauge on the Neuse River recorded 10 feet (three meters) of inundation, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. "All across the state of North Carolina and portions of SC, there will be extreme flooding or major flooding at least for a number of days to come".
A state of emergency has been declared in five coastal states - North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia.
Officials say anyone who has not heeded mandatory evacuation orders is on his own. "I'm not leaving him here".
"If you find yourself here [in rising floodwaters], you need to get out", she said.
Perched on the porch of his home, carpenter Tony Albright was calmly awaiting Florence's arrival, beer in hand.
"I built this house myself, so I'm not anxious at all, I know it's solid", he said. "I charged the batteries of my electronic devices, I have beers and video games".
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