As more than a million people head for higher ground, SC officials say they have no plans to move 650 inmates at a medium-security prison - opting instead to have them take their chances with a monster Category-3 hurricane barreling towards them.
More than 1.5 million people have been ordered to evacuate along 300 miles of coastline.
The last time the USA capital declared a state of emergency was in January 2016 when a winter storm dubbed "Snowzilla" blanketed the capital region in knee-deep snow.
NHC Director Ken Graham warned that rivers up to 60km inland may flood. But the change was probably temporary and didn't do anything to lessen the danger, said Jeff Byard, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Jonathan Serrie reports on hurricane preparations from Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.
Mack said U-Haul has been inspecting its facilities over the last week to make sure they are "clean, dry and secure".
Hurricane Florence is now expected to head more directly west after making landfall, crossing through SC. While initial forecasts had Jasper in Florence's crosshairs, updated information has downgraded the threat posed to it. "Everyone was sold out", she said.
Charleston, resident William Belli said he would not be among those joining the exodus.
At least 25 million residents are at risk from the storm and experts predict its current path could cause up to $170 billion worth of damage, hit up to 759,000 homes and businesses and become the costliest to ever hit the U.S. "Not anxious in the least". And he had advice for coastal residents.
It's a different story in North Carolina.
Brunswick County also opened its own shelters at three high schools on Tuesday.
The storm, which is building up over the Atlantic, is due to make landfall in either North or SC within the next few days, and is expected to be the worst storm to hit the area in 30 years.
German astronaut Alexander Gerst posted photos of the massive hurricane, which is now a category four storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, online from space. He said the federal government is "absolutely, totally prepared" for Florence. The Virginia National Guard is planning to initially bring up to 1,500 soldiers and airmen to offer help in the state's response operations.
The video below shows the South Carolina Highway Patrol leading the public down reversed lanes.
Axios: "The ties between Hurricane Florence and climate change" - "Hurricane Florence is a unique Atlantic hurricane, projected to stall out after hitting land and forecast to dump upwards of 2 feet of rain on several states, much like Hurricane Harvey did in Texas previous year".