Life-threatening storm surges of up to 13 feet were also forecast in some areas along with the possibility of tornadoes in North Carolina.
"Heed the warnings", said Byard, adding there was "well over $20 billion" in FEMA's disaster relief fund. REUTERS/Chris KeanePeople walk past a boarded up building before Hurricane Florence comes ashore in Carolina Beach, North Carolina, U.S., September 12, 2018.
The Newnan Times-Herald will continue to monitor the Hurricane Florence and share the latest information online at www.times-herald.com, on our Facebook page and in our daily print editions.
Florence is forecast to dump up to three feet (almost a meter) of rain in some areas.
The storm has prompted the evacuation of millions of people and will bring life-threatening storm surges across North Carolina and SC, officials at the National Hurricane Center said on Wednesday morning.
"This is a very fluid situation, especially now that new model runs are shifting the course of the storm south after landfall, potentially increasing its impact on SC and Georgia", St. Mary's Hospital spokesman Mark Ralston said.
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The storm is now classified as a "major hurricane", meaning wind speeds are greater than 110 miles per hour.
Thousands of residents in North and SC have fled their homes as Hurricane Florence, the biggest of the extreme weather conditions on the map, looks set to tear its way through the eastern seaboard.
A satellite image shows Hurricane Florence looming in the Atlantic Ocean as the sun rises over the U.S. Florence is expected to bring tropical storm conditions to North Carolina and SC on Thursday and hurricane conditions on Friday.
Even more troubling is the amount of rain that could fall in southeastern North Carolina due to the storm slowing down or stalling out.
A steady stream of vehicles full of people and belongings flowed inland Tuesday, and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper tried to convince everyone to flee. Flooding well inland could wreak environmental havoc by washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms. Dubbed the "Storm of a lifetime", the National Weather Service expects the hurricane to reach the Carolinas on Thursday or Friday, and may linger over the weekend - bringing with it "catastrophic" winds and flooding rainfall.
US President Donald Trump has pledged that the federal government was "ready for the big one".
In Virginia, 245,000 coastal residents were ordered to evacuate, including from the Eastern Shore.