At 1000GMT on 12 September, Florence had maximum sustained winds of 215 km/h (130 mph), the equivalent of a category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, and a minimum central pressure of 946 hPa, according to the US National Hurricane Center.
Storm surge watches and warnings are separated from hurricane alerts because hurricane-force winds and storm surges don't always occur at the same place or the same time, said Rick Knabb, the former director of the hurricane center, and now the hurricane expert at the Weather Channel.
A man runs past a mandatory evacuation sign before Hurricane Florence comes ashore in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.
Some of the weather models predict that it may stall and sit and spin for a couple of days, just as Hurricane Harvey did over Houston a year ago.
People in areas vulnerable to the risky hurricane, particularly those in coastal regions, have fled ahead of the storm.
Barbados is expected to start feeling the impact of tropical storm Isaac between late tonight and early morning. Heavy rains were forecast to extend into the Appalachian Mountains, affecting parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.
Tens of thousands of homes and businesses could be flooded in North Carolina alone, Governor Cooper warned.
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Duke Energy, the second-largest energy company in the USA, said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its four million customers in the Carolinas.
Overall, unsafe storm surge is possible all the way from Edisto Beach, South Carolina, to the North Carolina/Virginia border.
So far, it's estimate more than 1.7 million Americans have heeded the warnings about Hurricane Florence.
A state of emergency has also been declared in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington.
Port of Wilmington, North Carolina, extended operating hours for trains and trucks to clear cargo containers from the complex. "It's going to happen".
"We're talking about days, potentially weeks", Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said Wednesday night on CNN Tonight.
Officials in New Hanover County, which includes Wilmington, have stockpiled enough food and water for 60,000 people for four days, along with more than 28,000 tarps. Shelters in the city were filling and some people were being bused inland to Raleigh, even though some residents there were told they might have to evacuate because of flooding.
The trend is "exceptionally bad news", said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy, since it "smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge".