Outer bands from the hurricane were lashing land on Thursday, at least a full day before the National Hurricane Center expects the slow-moving storm's eye to blow ashore around the North Carolina-South Carolina line.
The storm is now 60 miles east-southeast of Wilmington with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph.
Florence's winds weakened as it drew closer to land, dropping from a peak of 140 miles per hour earlier in the week, and the hurricane was downgraded from a Category 4 to a Category 2.
Tropical Storm Florence trudged inland on Saturday, flooding rivers and towns, toppling trees and cutting power to almost a million homes and businesses as it dumped huge amounts of rain on North and SC, where five people have died.
Colleen Roberts, the public informaton officer from the city, told Fox News that 200 have been rescued so far as the Category 1 storm battered the area with strong winds and a life-threatening storm surge.
The NHC warned that storm surge could still reach up to three metres high between North Carolina's Cape Fear and Cape Lookout, though it could be higher in the Bay, Neuse, Pamlico and Pungo Rivers, it said.
For days, coastal areas will be bombarded with torrential rain, high winds, coastal erosion and storm surge, while Inland areas will be poured upon.
The police chief of Wrightsville Beach, vulnerable on a North Carolina barrier island, agreed that those who refused to leave were now on their own.
A surge is also likely along portions of the SC coast.
"So if there if a storm surge of ten feet at high tide which is plus two feet above the North Carolina sea level so the storm surge would mean that you will be at twelve feet and then the waves would be in addition to that", says Young.
The remainder of SC and North Carolina into southwest Virginia could see 6 to 12 inches, with some isolated areas seeing 15 inches.
More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate and authorities urged them to get going before the streets become inundated.
Officials in several states have declared states of emergency, including in the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland, where coastal areas are still recovering from summer storms.
More than 100,000 homes are already without power as weather conditions begin to worsen.
"I'm not going to put our personnel in harm's way", said Dan House.
The White House on Saturday said President Donald Trump had approved making federal funding available in some counties.
Browning's choice to stay in the hurricane warning zone wasn't easy, she said, but she "could not find anywhere to go".
Tropical Storm Isaac is also moving westward across the eastern Caribbean.
A wind gust at the Wilmington airport was clocked at 105 miles per hour (nearly 170 kph), the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958. Brian Wierzbicki, with U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va. The National Weather Center upgraded Subtropical Storm Joyce to Tropical Storm Joyce in its 11 p.m. Thursday update.
Another disturbance is swirling around in the Gulf of Mexico. The NHC is encouraging officials in northeastern Mexico, Texas and Louisiana to monitor its progress.