"Just because the wind speeds came down and the intensity of this storm came down to a Category 2, please do not let your guard down", Brock Long, the Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, told reporters Thursday in Washington. Exactly how bad the storm surge will be with Hurricane Florence remains to be seen, but meteorologists for NBC News are predicting that it could be up to 13 feet-and that is higher than Hurricane Maria, which brought a storm surge of around nine feet to parts of Puerto Rico.
There are fears that this storm could cause damage similar to what Houston suffered during Hurricane Harvey a year ago, when homes and businesses were inundated with floodwater.
"So this is a very unsafe storm", said Mr Long.
Hurricanes and typhoons not only bring severe coastal flooding via storm surge-they create awful inland flooding as well.
Far out in the Atlantic, Joyce strengthened into a tropical storm on Thursday evening with top sustained winds of 40 miles per hour (65 kph).
"I'm not leaving my child", Foster said. They said the military had made sites, including Fort Bragg, North Carolina, available to FEMA as staging areas for relief equipment and had put helicopters and high-wheeled vehicles at the ready in different sites in the southeast for search and rescue use.
The storm is huge, the National Hurricane Center says, and its worst effects will reach "a large area regardless of exactly where the center of Florence moves".
Flooding risks are also causing worries over the more than 300 wild horses living on North Carolina's coasts. We have to remember, Florence is a very large storm. "This storm will bring destruction to North Carolina".
Winds and waves began battering the Carolinas on Thursday as officials warned that Hurricane Florence - while weakening slightly - remains a "very risky storm" capable of wreaking havoc along a wide swathe of the US East Coast.
She said she expects to be without power for up to two weeks.
Incredible amounts of water will fall from the sky over the next several days in the Carolinas.
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 past year.
"We have lots of water, we've got lots of food, lots of canned food, non-perishable food", she said.
"Either no (hotel) rooms are available, or we are denied because the breed or size of dogs", she said. They've also been praying, singing songs in their native language. Fortunately for House, he says this storm should not be a devastating event for the beach town in terms of loss of life.
Winds and rain were arriving later in SC, and a few people were still walking on the sand at Myrtle Beach while North Carolina was getting pounded.
Florence is one of four named storms in the Atlantic.
About 1.7 million residents across the states' coastlines are under mandatory evacuation orders, and tens of thousands of hospital patients and prison inmates have been moved out of Florence's path.