Hurricane Florence is forecast to be an extremely risky major hurricane when it nears the US coast, while some weakening is expected on Thursday, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its latest advisory on Wednesday.
The storm's maximum sustained winds were clocked at 120 miles per hour (193 km per hour), down from a peak of 140 mph a day earlier before Florence was downgraded from a Category 4.
Florence is forecast to move slowly over the Carolinas after making landfall Thursday night or Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
A view of Hurricane Florence is shown churning in the Atlantic Ocean in a west, north-westerly direction heading for the eastern coastline of the United States, taken by cameras outside the International Space Station on Wednesday.
It is also a very large storm, with hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles (110 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (280 km).
A damaged awning is seen as winds from Hurricane Florence on September 14, 2018 in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Hurricane Florence is hitting along the North Carolina and SC coastline bringing high winds and rain.
Port of Wilmington, North Carolina, extended operating hours for trains and trucks to clear cargo containers from the complex.
"We're just trying to plan for the future here, not having a house for an extended period of time", David Garrigus said.
The storm is moving steadily toward the Carolinas' coastal areas.
Time is running short to get out of the way of Hurricane Florence, a monster of a storm that has a region of more than 10 million people in its potentially devastating sights as it zeroes in on the Southeastern coast.
"This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding", the NHC said.
"It's a very unsafe storm", Federal Emergency Management Authority administrator Jeff Byard said.
Duke Energy Corp expected between 25 percent and 75 percent of its 4 million customers would lose power in the Carolinas.
Early Thursday Florence was about 235 miles (378 kilometers) east southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and about 280 miles (450 kilometers) east southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, concerned the storm would bring its devastation south, issued an emergency declaration for all 159 counties in his state.
In addition to tens of thousands of homes and businesses, five military bases and half a dozen nuclear power plants are also in the path of the storm.
"I've been through hurricanes before but never with kids", she said.
The rest of South and North Carolina as well as southwest Virginia may see up to 24 inches of rain.
"But I'm staying", she said.