On top of the potentially destructive hurricane, forecasters also put parts of North Carolina on tornado watch.
At least five people have died since the storm crashed into the coast and almost stalled.
Florence dipped to Category 2 hurricane strength with maximum sustained winds of 110 miles per hour on Wednesday evening. Forecasters said the onslaught could last for days, leaving a wide area under water from both heavy downpours and rising seas. Officials expect the shellacking to last through Friday and into Saturday. Its forward movement increased slightly to 6 miles per hour (9 kph).
Florence's winds dropped from a peak of 225km/h to 165km/h overnight, reducing the hurricane from a terrifying Category 4 to a 2.
The tropical cyclone is expected to unload 10 trillion gallons of rainfall in North Carolina, weather.us meteorologist Ryan Maue said.
Florence is now a Category 1 storm with a 10-foot storm surge, according to the National Weather Service. To put this in context, we correctly predicted the full extent of Hurricane Harvey's economic damage to be $190 billion previous year.
The bulk of the three media briefings held by police chief Dan House surrounded how they were still anticipating the serious and catastrophic storm surge as well as hurricane force winds.
Forecasters said that given the storm's size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses and washing over industrial waste sites and hog-manure ponds. "So since we can't find anything within our means. we've opted to stay".More news: European Union lawmakers vote to take measures against Hungary
USA forecasters today downgraded Hurricane Florence to a Category 1 storm, as its outer edge lashed the Carolinas with strong winds and heavy rain.
"We got a little bit of water inside, but things weren't so bad", Church said.
Help may not be available for days due to the risky conditions for those who chose to remain behind along the coast.
In New Bern, at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers in North Carolina, the storm surge overwhelmed the town of 30,000.
It was causing a life-threatening storm surge in parts of eastern North Carolina.
"If Florence fails to move well inland right away, it could remain as a hurricane for an extended period, due to proximity to warm ocean water", Kottlowski said.
Note: This may not be the most recent forecast, please visit www.myfox8.com or open the FOX8 app for the very latest on Hurricane Florence.
With more than 1,500 commercial airline flights in and out of the Carolinas canceled - and potentially many more to come - even the skies above sat empty, except for Florence's foreboding cloud cover and rapidly strengthening rain.More news: Rockfall in Greece Leaves Seven People Injured
Keith Acre of North Carolina's Department of Emergency Management said: "This has been a really large evacuation and sheltering operation, probably the largest we've done, so that has not been an east lift". Some roads were already impassable in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Strong high pressure to the north is likely to enhance winds, wave action and coastal flooding farther north along the coast than what would normally occur.
In Virginia, 245,000 coastal residents were told to flee.
In the North Carolina town of Wilmington, which could take a direct hit from Florence, wind gusts were stirring up frothy white caps into the Cape Fear River.
Larger vessels, such as cruise or cargo ships, may have to reroute their courses to avoid Florence's unsafe seas. It could take several weeks to restore electricity.
Because hurricane force winds extend 130 km from the center, people on land will experience sharply deteriorating conditions long before the center reaches the coast.
That scenario has a high probability of occurring in much of North Carolina, a large portion of SC and parts of northern Georgia.
"We moved all the furniture up in case the water comes in but the water seems to be staying at the edge of the driveway", he said, adding that if the wind picks up and the rain keeps coming, that could change.More news: Apple Explains "Everything to Know" About iPhone Xs in 54 Seconds
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