Florence is expected to make landfall late Thursday night or early Friday morning, Mountain Time, somewhere between Atlantic Beach, NC and Savannah, GA.
The storm's maximum sustained winds were clocked at 175kmph late on Wednesday, down from a peak of 225kmph a day earlier, before it was downgraded to a Category 3 and then a Category 2.
Inland winds could lead to spotty power outages, but more extended outages lasting possibly for weeks are expected at the coast.
"Storms like that don't usually make it that far west".
Marshall: Well, if it does follow the path of come more toward Charlotte, when can we expect to see the greatest effect here in the Charlotte region?
"I'm not approaching Florence from fear or panic", said Brad Corpening, 35, who planned to ride out the storm in his boarded-up delicatessen in Wilmington.
"There's really not a lot of good news", NOAA flight director Paul Flaherty said on "Shepard Smith Reporting".
On its current track, Florence is expected to hit the Carolinas and Virginia the hardest, the NHC said. State officials have said the inmates are safer in the prison than they would be in an evacuation.
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Hurricanes are massive storm systems that form over warm ocean waters and move toward land.
Stay weather our around the clock coverage of Hurricane Florence on Spectrum News for the latest information.
Forecasters said parts of North Carolina could get 50 centimeters of rain, if not more, with as much as 25 cm elsewhere in the state and in Virginia, parts of Maryland and Washington.
"We do not want to risk one SC life in this hurricane", the governor told reporters.
As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, Florence was 435 miles from Wilmington, N.C., moving northwest at 16 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Randall Hill / Reuters Lisa Evers (Foreground) and her daughter Amanda Hamilton, both of Oak Island, decorate their storm shutters before evacuating ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Oak Island, North Carolina, U.S. September 12, 2018.
"We are already experiencing heavily impacted traffic on some of the evacuation routes", said Jeff Byard, the associate administrator for response and recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
While one man concluded: 'We are about to get pounded, but since we have absolutely no control over it, all you can do is laugh, and pray for the best'.
"This is a horrific nightmare storm from a meteorological perspective", University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd said. In Virginia, officials have evacuated one state prison, though local jails in the affected area are planning to keep inmates in place after stockpiling food and fuel, the Virginian-Pilot reports.