Once a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 140 miles per hour (225 km/h), the hurricane was downgraded to a Category 1 on Thursday night in the US.
"This storm will bring destruction", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said.
Winds bent trees toward the ground and raindrops flew sideways as Florence moved in for an extended stay, with enough of its killer winds swirling overseas to maintain its power.
Brenda Bethune told NBC's "Today" show Thursday morning that public safety crews have been checking to make sure businesses are secure, and looking for anything that could become a projectile as the winds come ashore.
Officials say 321,000 people are without power in North Carolina as Florence pounds the area. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.
The National Hurricane Centre said a gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, reported 6.3 feet (1.92 metres) of inundation. "Here in Wilmington, the mayor tells us that first responders are standing by, at the ready for emergency responses", Almaguer said.
Thousands more have been ordered to prepare to deploy if needed.
Regarding the possibility of a storm surge, Jones said, "Everyone has to be on the lookout for that, however, the way our house sits, it's elevated. Through Sunday evening, more than 20 inches of rain could fall in southeast North Carolina and far northeast SC on top of what has already fallen.
Waves slam the Oceana Pier & Pier House Restaurant in Atlantic Beach, N.C., Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 as Hurricane Florence approaches the area.
The storm's movement, not its strength, has forecasters and officials anxious.
One Twitter user wrote: "The best kind of infographic is one that is not only completely badass technologically and visually, as this one is, but more importantly it must convey your message clearly". "The longer you have this hurricane wind flow, the longer you push that water well inland", he said.
"I said, 'Why get on the road like this?" "Because it's Mother Nature".
The National Weather Center predicts another 20 to 25 inches of rain for the areas surrounding the Carolinas' border, with 30 to 40 inches in some places. That's enough water to fill the Empire State Building almost 40,000 times. More than 1 million people are under mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders, with more than 10 million people under storm watches or warnings.
The winds had been as high as 140 miles per hour earlier in the week.
"New Bern is just not used to this level of a hurricane", Outlaw said.
"You can see there's fish floating around in here", she said. Duke Energy, a power company in the Carolinas, estimated that one million to three million customers could lose electricity because of the storm and that it could take weeks to restore.