The NHC said the first tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 miles per hour (63 kph) would hit the region early on Thursday with the storm's centre reaching the coast Friday.
Early Wednesday afternoon in North Carolina, the storm was centered 700 kilometers (435 miles) off the coast, moving at 26 kph (16 mph) towards the USA coastline.
Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help deal with what could be weeks of power outages in the aftermath, the company said.
The National Hurricane Center's projected track had Florence hovering off the southern North Carolina coast starting Thursday night before finally blowing ashore.
After making landfall this Friday (Sept. 14), the massive storm will now "wobble" southward and then head west, making a "big, grand tour" of the southeastern United States, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) meteorologist Kevin Scasny said in a statement released today (Sept. 12).
"The state is mobilising all available resources to ensure public safety", Deal said.
'I can't emphasise enough the potential for unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge and inland flooding with this storm'.
Despite the potentially devastating hurricane being downgraded to category two on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, the governor of Georgia has joined his counterparts in Virginia and the Carolinas in declaring a state of emergency.
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In Virginia, where about 245,000 residents were ordered to evacuate low-lying areas, officials urged people to remain away from home despite forecast changes showing Florence's path largely missing the state.
With South Carolina's beach towns more in the bull's-eye because of the shifting forecast, OH vacationers Chris and Nicole Roland put off their departure from North Myrtle Beach to get the maximum amount of time on the sand. Wilmington, North Carolina, just north of where Florence appeared headed for shore, grew empty and quiet on Wednesday.
In Columbia, South Carolina, Barry Sparks, a 66-year-old retiree, was thinking of getting out after the path of the storm shifted to the south. "It wants to get stronger", he said of the storm.
"We're just trying to plan for the future here, not having a house for an extended period of time", David Garrigus said. "Now it might be time for the exam", he said. "The water level will get a little high but we'll be fine".
"I've been through hurricanes before but never with kids", she said.
"The time to prepare is nearly over", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a morning news conference.
Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, he said: "Disaster is at the doorstep and it's coming in".
A satellite image showing Hurricane Florence in the Atlantic Ocean this week.