There was very little calm before the storm in Havelock Monday, as residents, emergency personnel and governmental leaders prepared for what could be the strongest hurricane the area has experienced in more than six decades.
"There's going to be a lot of water where we don't want it", Pfaff warned in a Monday morning media briefing.
Governors of those states have already declared states of emergency, as have the governors of Virginia and Maryland. "We are mobilizing the state's resources to make sure we are prepared, and the people of SC must not hesitate to prepare for the possibility of a hurricane impacting our coast".
Updated NHC forecasts showed the storm lingering near the coast of the Carolinas, carrying days of heavy rains that could bring intense inland flooding from SC to Virginia.
Some 38cm (15in) to 64cm (25in) of rain is forecast in some areas - with up to one metre (40in) at the centre of the storm.
A supervisor at the North Carolina emergency management office was welcoming workers back and telling them to prepare for a long week.
The ocean is moving inland ahead of Florence as storm surge begins to flood the Carolinas coast, according to the NHC.
More than 1.5 million people have been ordered to evacuate along 300 miles of coastline.
"It's possible it could be even higher than that depending on how quickly the storm moves to the coast, but we're kind of expecting it to slow down as it moves to the coast and would probably cut down the storm surge", AccuWeather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski says.
A hurricane bringing 90 miles per hour winds and the risk of devastating storms and floods is hurtling toward the USA, prompting a large portion of the East Coast to declare a formal state of emergency.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released a "mesmerising loop" showing Hurricane Florence from space.
At 11 a.m. Hurricane Florence was located about 750 miles southeast or Bermuda and about 610 miles northeast of the Northern Leeward Islands.
The hurricane is expected to dump heavy rain throughout the region and FEMA officials said it's not just a coastal problem.
"North Carolina is taking Hurricane Florence seriously and you should too", said Governor Cooper.