"This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast", the National Weather Service in Wilmington, North Carolina, wrote in its Tuesday evening area forecast discussion, adding in a Wednesday report that flooding in southeast North Carolina and northeast SC could be "unprecedented".
The first severe winds from Hurricane Florence are still expected to hit the Wilmington area around Thursday at 2 p.m., with the eye striking the Wilmington area on Friday afternoon at 2 p.m., according to most recent update from the National Weather Service (NWS); you can read the most recent NWS update here. The Wilmington area can now expect 9-to-13-foot storm surges if Florence's peak impact coincides with high tide, Brunswick County coastal areas west of Southport can expect 6-to-9-foot surges.
Florence was downgraded Wednesday to a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 120 miles per hour.
Florence could bring life-threatening storm surges up to 13 feet.
Since moving south, she has lived through many hurricanes but did not want to chance anything with Hurricane Florence.
The hurricane was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as sluggish and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico previous year.
"The time to prepare is nearly over", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a morning news conference.
The National Hurricane Center said in its 5 a.m. advisory that the Category 4 storm will move west-northwestward between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Wednesday.
Duke Energy Co. said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks.
Computer simulations - especially the often star-performing European model - push the storm further south, even into SC and Georgia.
Reacting to the possibility of a more southerly track, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared an emergency but did not immediately order any evacuations.
At Nags Head on North Carolina's Hatteras Island, only a few people remained to take photos of angry waves topped with white froth. Hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 90 miles.
"Whether or not the game could have been played, we made the decision we think is best for the state and those who are evacuating the coast", said Gamecock Athletics Director Ray Tanner. And although the storm's wind speeds have decreased slightly, says NOAA, the size of the wind field has increased, putting more people at risk. "You feel like you should have already left".