As of 11 p.m. EST, the storm was centered 280 miles east southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and was moving northwest at 17 mph.
Florence's winds dropped from a peak of 140 miles per hour to 90 miles per hour on Thursday.
With reports of skyscraper-likes waves out at sea, the potential for historic coastal surges and rainfalls, and severe threats to vulnerable nuclear plants and other industrial waste sites-a behemoth Hurricane Florence is fast-approaching the southeastern USA coast on Wednesday as weather experts and emergency management officials intensifying their warnings about the dangers the storm poses.
"It truly is really about the whole size of this storm", National Hurricane Center director Ken Graham said. "We want to make sure people understand that people should not ride Hurricane Florence out".
"Between the lines: Hurricane Florence could become the strongest hurricane on record to strike so far north if it makes landfall north of the border between SC and North Carolina as a Category 4 or 5 storm".
The heavy rain expected from Hurricane Florence could flood hog manure pits, coal ash dumps and other industrial sites in North Carolina, creating a noxious witches' brew of waste that might wash into homes and threaten drinking water supplies. She said a hurricane has a way of bringing everyone to the same level. After its initial impact, Byard said the most serious concern will be massive rainfalls that would produce risky inland flooding. The homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions. "We'll handle it. We're ready, we're able".
A tropical storm watch is in effect for north of the North Carolina/Virginia border to Cape Charles Light, VA, and for Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort. "This rainfall may produce life-threatening flash flooding". The storm will make landfall at the Carolinas Friday. "It's weakened, but unfortunately, the eye has expanded out to a diameter now of about 30-35 nautical miles". Florence is a powerful category 4 hurricane and is expected to gain even more strength later in the day.
NASA video shows Hurricane Florence from space as it makes landfall
Roy Cooper said Friday that Florence is "wreaking havoc" and he's concerned "whole communities" could be wiped away. Myrtle Beach, a SC beach resort, was deserted with empty streets, boarded up storefronts and very little traffic.
"Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls". Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. "Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months".
A Category 4 storm could devastate the East Coast, simulation shows.
Florence is rated a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale.
In Wilmington, the fire department is urging people to prepare for at least seven days of hardship, collecting water and nonperishable foods.
Farther to the east, Hurricane Helene is now a Category 2 storm, but it's expected to curve harmlessly northward and weaken in the central Atlantic. Additional swell courtesy of other activity in the tropics keeps plenty of fun surf around for the weekend, so stay tuned to the regional forecast updates for the latest.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic basin, Tropical Storm Isaac will strike the islands of the Lesser Antilles, with Guadeloupe, Dominica and Martinique under a tropical storm warning.