At 2300 EDT (0300 GMT), the NHC said Florence had maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour (65 km), and was slowly drifting westward over SC. Despite the downgrade, Florence is expected to produce catastrophic flooding throughout the Carolinas.
The Carolinas will likely bear the brunt of Florence's wrath. The brunt of the storm is expected to affect both Carolinas and parts of Virginia through Friday at least. The storm was moving northwest at 12 miles per hour. The Charleston area is under a storm surge watch.
As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that FEMA and first responders are "supplied and ready", and he disputed the official conclusion that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad. Tropical storm-force winds extend outward for up to 195 miles.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper urged people to take the storm seriously. He says: "If Mama and Grandma are going, then a lot of people are leaving".
"We are completely ready for hurricane Florence, as the storm gets even larger and more powerful".
An estimated 20-30 inches of rainfall is projected for coastal North Carolina and northeastern SC - with up to forty inches in isolated areas. Widespread rainfall amounts could reach 152mm to 300mm, spurring flooding.
North Carolina will see up to eight months of rain in a two- to three-day period, National Weather Service forecaster Brandon Locklear said in a video briefing. The rainfall will produce life-threatening flash flooding in Virginia and the Carolinas.
This same zone will be hammered by winds gusting up to hurricane force for almost a day while tropical-storm conditions could linger twice that long. Airlines canceled almost 1,000 flights and counting.
While most have left, House said that a few remained and that there were some "incidents" overnight.
It is unclear exactly how many people fled, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out.
Coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely empty, and schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia.
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Photos and videos show the destruction and power of Florence
Florence's intensity has diminished since it roared ashore along the US mid-Atlantic coast on Friday as a hurricane. Sutton Power Station outside Wilmington and that contaminated runoff likely flowed into the plant's cooling pond.
According to the National Hurricane Centre, heavy rains with tropical-storm-force winds are spreading across the outer banks and coastal southeastern North Carolina.
A hurricane warning is in effect for South Santee River, SC, north to Duck, NC, and the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds.
A Hurricane Watch is in effect for.
Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long said storm surge warnings have not changed despite the weakening intensity of the winds. As it moves over land, the storm will slow down and begin to lose power.
The full impact of the storm surge on the coast will depend on whether the storm's arrival coincides with high tide.
The hurricane is expected to make landfall around Wilmington on Friday morning. But that part of the East Coast rarely sees major hurricanes. The storm's 12-mph speed Thursday morning was a marked drop from Wednesday's 17-mph speeds.
Tropical Storm Isaac is also moving westward across the eastern Caribbean.
Heavy rain, mostly. First Warn meteorologist Chris Mulcahy expects anywhere from 4-10 inches across the Charlotte area, depending on your location.
The stall is something coastal communities in the US have seen before.
Not everyone was taking Florence too seriously: About two dozen locals gathered Thursday night behind the boarded-up windows of The Barbary Coast bar as Florence blew into Wilmington.