It was located 575 miles (925 kms) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, and moving at 17 mph (28 kph) in a west-northwest direction.
"Historical rainfall amounts from #Florence are possible with UNPRECEDENTED flooding", according to the National Weather Service office in Newport and Morehead City, on North Carolina's coast. Upon its arrival, the National Hurricane Center projects that Florence could drop anywhere from 20-40 inches of rain along the Carolina coast.
"In collaboration with state emergency agencies and the Georgia Hospital Association, we are monitoring bed counts daily so that we can quickly and accurately assist with any necessary evacuations", said Sydney Walker, spokesperson for Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center.
He said Wednesday it was imperative that locals heed evacuation warnings and that the time to flee Florence is now.
"You put your life at risk by staying", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.
Florence is predicted to make landfall tomorrow, with states of emergency in effect in North and SC and Virginia.
Floodwaters could also spread mercury-containing coal ash that's held in pits operated by Duke Energy, the state's main electricity company, the AP reported.
Forecasters are predicting that Florence will make landfall in the Carolinas late Thursday or early Friday as a slightly weakened but still unsafe Category 3 hurricane.
"The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety ahead of Hurricane Florence", Deal said in a news release.
- Hurricane conditions are expected late Thursday night into Saturday morning.
US insurers are bracing for what could be $20 billion in losses as Hurricane Florence barrels toward the Carolinas and Virginia, bringing punishing rains and potentially deadly flooding.
Emergency preparations in the area included activating 2800 National Guard troops in North Carolina, stockpiling food, setting up shelters, switching traffic patterns so that major roads led away from shore and securing 16 nuclear reactors in the three-state region.
For anyone needing a place to stay to escape the hurricane, both North Carolina and SC are updating their lists of emergency shelters.
Moreover, high tides around noon and midnight these next few days will make the storm surges even worse, Samson said. "It's going to happen. We wanted to make sure our associates had time to take care of their families". Cars and trucks full of people and belongings streamed inland. But we're going to stay as long as we can.
According to Fox News Senior Meteorologist Janice Dean, current forecast puts Florence stalling upon reaching the Carolina coast before making a slight shift south and barreling down SC.
"That heavy rain threat may last for days into early next week in some areas, given Florence's slow movement".
The approach of Florence has seen panic-buying at petrol stations in North Carolina.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for north of Duck, NC, to the North Carolina/Virginia border. "People are taking down awnings and U-Haul trucks have come in and take the entire contents of stores".