The tropical storm, barreling across the Atlantic Ocean towards the East Coast of the United States, weakened slightly to a Category 3 storm on a scale of 5 but still had maximum sustained wind speeds of 125mph as of 6pm (BST).
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. "These enormous waves are produced by being trapped along with very strong winds moving in the same direction [as] the storm's motion".
"But it's possible the eye of Hurricane Florence will take a slight right turn to the south on Friday as it makes its way over eastern North Carolina, which could send a lot more rain to the Charleston area, according to Neil Dixon of the National Weather Service in Charleston".
Up to 1.7 million people are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders, and coastal residents were frantically boarding up homes and businesses and hitting the road on Wednesday as the storm approached.
It's growth has been aided by the formation of a new eyewall, which tends to increase the size of a hurricane, meaning that its extreme wind field stretches even farther than weaker storms. You're going to be displaced from your home in the coastal areas.
SC authorities have turned four motorways into one-way routes away from the coast to speed the exodus.
The storm is now expected to make landfall in the lower Outer Banks of North Carolina early Friday morning or possibly stay in the ocean before making a shift to the left toward SC.
'I can't emphasise enough the potential for unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge and inland flooding with this storm'.
NHC Director Ken Graham warned that rivers up to 60km inland may flood. Eventually, Florence will veer north into the Appalachian Mountains, bringing soaking rains to Virginia and western North Carolina, before sputtering out late next week near DE and Maryland, the FWS reported.
"We may not even get the worst of it until Saturday", Sharp said.
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. I believe in preparation, ' Wright said.
Wilmington, North Carolina, just north of where the hurricane is expected to come ashore, was sunny around midday on Wednesday as the town appeared to be emptying.
"This will be a storm that creates and causes massive damage to our country".
The latest forecast path (as of 5 a.m.) shifts Florence's track to the west. Florence will likely stay a major hurricane until late Friday night, when the hurricane is predicted to weaken to Category 2 upon landfall.
"Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you".
SC ordered the mandatory evacuation of one million coastal residents while North Carolina ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks, barrier islands that are a popular tourist destination.