The center of Florence, no longer classified as a major hurricane but still posing a grave threat to life and property, is expected to strike North Carolina's southern coast on Friday, then drift southwest along the shoreline before moving inland on Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami.
The monster storm showed signs of slowing down as it inched closer to the USA, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Astronauts at the International Space Station, for example, struggled to fit the enormous storm into one frame.
"Models becoming more and more confident on where the storm is going to make landfall".
A number of other businesses, including Sam's Club, Lowe's, and a range of local retailers across North Carolina and SC, were shut down or were planning to shut down ahead of the storm.
Massive waves from the hurricane will make the rush of water even more unsafe and damaging, the National Hurricane Center warned.
The Washington Post reports that flooding due to heavy rains is the second-leading cause of death in landfalling tropical storms and hurricanes.
Historic and potentially catastrophic flooding is possible along with life-threating storm surges of up to 12 feet are possible along the coasts. "It's going to destroy homes", said Jeff Byard, an official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The majority of the storm surge and rainfall issues are expected to remain for southeast North Carolina down into Charleston.
Melody Rawson evacuated her first-floor apartment in Myrtle Beach and arrived at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia, to camp for free with three other adults, her disabled son, two dogs and a pet bird.
The slow movement, combined with the massive amount of moisture this storm holds, will bring unsafe rains - from 20 to 30 inches in coastal North Carolina, with 40 inches possible in isolated areas, the weather service says. For example, the seas off of Wilmington, North Carolina have risen 7.5 inches since 1935, according to NOAA.
"We've had some changes in the storms direction, some that are concerning us", Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner said Wednesday. "If we try to leave, we'll just get stuck in the rain", she said.
Florence's projected path includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous hog farms that store animal waste in huge lagoons. But most people don't know what zone they live in and may not know a mandatory evacuation order applies to their location, he said. Typically, local governments in the state make the call on evacuations. "It's a big one".