Forecasters expect Florence to hit the Carolinas early in the morning on September 14. "This will cause extremely risky flooding".
The worst of the storm's fury had yet to reach coastal SC, where emergency managers said people could still leave flood-prone areas. On the James River, waves are expected to be about 1 foot though Sunday.
On Wednesday, Florence was downgraded twice from its peak as a Category 4 storm which causes "catastrophic damage". Categories only represent the speed of sustained winds, and these are still destructive.
"On a scale of 1 to 10, I'm probably a 7" in terms of worry, she said.
"Right now we have extreme flooding and storm surge". The hurricane is expected to make landfall on Friday, with heavy rain and hurricane-force winds potentially lasting for days.
The total bill for damage from Florence could eventually reach $US10 billion ($13.8b) to $US20 billion ($27.7b), said Chuck Watson, a disaster researcher at Enki Research in Savannah, Georgia. So will the trees. "So will the power lines, as the trees fall down". Tropical Force winds of 58 to 73 miles per hour are expected in the area.
The fresh water flooding will also be a major issue as the storm moves inland.
A weatherman was forced to walk off air during a live broadcast as his TV station was evacuated due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Florence.
As the driving rain and pounding winds reached land Friday, a few of the locals who chose to ride out the storm reached for their cameras to capture Florence's fury from a firsthand perspective.
An officer inspecting the Triangle Motor Inn found a "basketball-sized hole" in a corner room and firefighters said the building had suffered life-threatening structural damage.
The wind and rain were starting to pick up just before 5 a.m.in the Triangle.
In addition to the coastal flood warning, a tropical storm warning is in effect for Hampton Roads from Poquoson to the Virginia-North Carolina border because of Hurricane Florence.
Roughly 1 million people are under evacuation orders.
"Even the rescuers can not stay there", he said.
The coastal area of SC features hundreds of inlets while North Carolina has barrier islands miles away from the mainland.
"Because of the slow movement of the storm, the rain is going to have plenty of time keep piling up", said Feltgen.
Mayor Joe Benson said the storm will batter the oceanside town through two high-tide periods.
Some 11,000 power outages have been reported in North Carolina. "Flooding is nearly guaranteed".
Susan Faulkenberry Panousis has stayed in her Bald Head Island, North Carolina home during prior hurricanes, but not this time. She packed up what she could and took a ferry.
CNN's not the only media outlet with reporters in the way of Florence, delivering scoops on what rain and wind look like.
"You need to be prepared to be without power for weeks", Holding said, pointing out that Hurricane Fran knocked out power for two weeks and Hurricane Matthew left him without power for five days.
Florence is one of four named storms in the Atlantic.