"More significant weakening is forecast on Saturday as Florence moves farther inland over central SC", the NHC said on Thursday. And she has seen reports of people fleeing to rooftops to escape high floodwaters.
More ominously, forecasters said the onslaught would last for hours and hours because Florence was barely creeping along at 6 mph (9 kph) and still drawing energy from the ocean. Utility companies said millions were expected to lose power and that restoring it could take weeks.
The powerful storm inundated coastal streets and left tens of thousands without power.
The center of Florence will approach the coasts of North and SC on Thursday, then move near or over the coast of southern North Carolina and eastern SC on Thursday night and Friday, the NHC added.
But North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent".
Hurricane Florence is moving at full force across the Carolinas, submerging homes, with days more rain in store.
As 400-mile-wide Florence pounded away at the coast with torrential downpours and surging seas, rescue crews used boats to reach scores of people besieged by rising waters along a river.
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On Wednesday, Hurricane Florence was downgraded to a Category 2 storm, but is still considered extremely risky.
"I said, 'Why get on the road like this?"
Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, N.C., at 7:15 a.m. ET, creeping slowly ashore - but bringing strong winds, a massive storm surge and a rain system that will soak much of the state and SC for days.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry says the USA electricity sector has been well prepared for Hurricane Florence even as hundreds of thousands of homes lose power in the storm.
It's about 90 miles northeast of Wrightsville Beach, where Florence made landfall at 7:15 a.m. September 14.
Most of the damage during Hurricane Matthew in 2016 in North Carolina came from inland flooding - 31 people died and almost 100,000 homes were destroyed. Hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles (130 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds reached out 195 miles (315 kilometers).
"(It's) very eerie, the wind howling, the rain blowing sideways, debris flying", said Sandie Orsa, of Wilmington, who fears splintering trees will destroy her home.
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In Jacksonville, North Carolina, next to Camp Lejeune, firefighters and police fought wind and rain as they went door-to-door to pull people out of the Triangle Motor Inn after the structure began to crumble and the roof started to collapse.
The rising sea crept toward the two-story home of Tom Copeland, who lives on a spit of land surrounded by water in Swansboro.
More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate the coastlines of the Carolinas and Virginia.
The impact of Florence will be widespread, with destructive winds, life-threatening storm surge, risky surf, torrential rainfall, flooding and the potential for tornadoes.
Officials say more than 100 people have already been rescued in the area overnight. As the recovery from past storms continues in many rural towns, the next storm is about to strike.
The path of Hurricane Florence sees it going over some of the poorest areas on the eastern seaboard.
Before sunrise, high winds and storm surge from Hurricane Florence hits Swansboro N.C., on September 14, 2018.
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