Its centre will move between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday and approach the coast of SC or North Carolina on Thursday, the National Hurricane Centre said.
The Miami-based center says the storm's center was located about 410 miles (660 kilometers) south of Bermuda and about 975 miles (1570 kilometers) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina.
Communities in Florence's path could lose electricity for weeks due to downed power lines and flooded equipment, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long said.
Trojniar said she and her husband were packing up belongings and plan to stack sandbags around their single-floor home in Wilmington's eerily named Landfall neighbourhood near the ocean before checking into a hotel to ride out the storm, with plenty of wine. The watches extend north from Edisto Beach to the North Carolina-Virginia border. Typically local governments in North Carolina make the call on evacuations. "People are doing a pretty good job now".
"Everyone who is staying here is either a real old-timer, someone who doesn't know where would be better, or someone involved in emergency operations one way or another", said Fox.
"This is not going to be a quick hit across the coast", he said.
He said Congress would be generous with disaster relief funding. "This is not going to be a storm that we recover from in days". It will possibly weaken somewhat as it nears land - but that will hardly change the flooding threat.
Coastal North Carolina felt the first bite of Hurricane Florence on Thursday as winds began to rise, a prelude to the slow-moving tempest that forecasters warned would cause catastrophic flooding across a wide swath of the US southeast.
Rain measured in feet is "looking likely", he said. The large storm is also projecting tropical storm-force winds outward up to 170 miles.
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"All the rainfall we're going to have, plus you talk about the wind - that means a lot of trees coming down, it's a lot of power outages, a lot of impacts with this system", Graham said.
These alerts are usually issued about 48 hours before storms are set to touch down, when the arrival of tropical force winds would make any last-minute preparation hard.
Hurricane Florence has intensified to a Category 4 Hurricane after it was reduced to a tropical storm over the weekend.
The menacing Category 4 storm packed winds of 130 miles (215 kilometers) per hour over the Atlantic.
Duke Energy spokesman Ryan Mosier said operators would begin shutting down nuclear plants at least two hours before hurricane-force winds arrive.
As one of the nation's foremost experts on storm surge, he warned that if Florence hits at high tide, it could pose serious risks to property and life for any low-lying areas along the coast as well as along any inlets.
"Prolonged and exceptionally heavy" rains will also inundate parts of the coast and inland areas, the National Hurricane Center said.
Part of the danger may come later in the week, due to increased fears Florence "will slow considerably or stall, leading to a prolonged and exceptionally heavy and risky rainfall event Friday-Sunday", says the Center on Tuesday. "This rainfall could produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding".
Rick Leuttich directs the University of North Carolina's Institute of Marine Science Morehead City, and is one of the principal developers of the ADCIRC coastal circulation and storm surge model.