Florence was about 170 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, N.C., at 8 a.m. ET Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said. This general motion, accompanied by a further decrease in forward speed, is expected to continue through today. Bands of rainfall will begin arriving Friday night.
The National Hurricane Centre warned the threat of tornadoes was increasing as Florence neared shore and South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said the heavy rains could trigger landslides in the western part of his state. A slow motion over eastern SC is forecast Friday night through Saturday night.
The Coast Guard says port operations in Charleston, South Carolina, have been stopped as Hurricane Florence approaches the coast.
The storm's minimum central pressure is 955 MB or 28.20 inches.
The NHC said tropical storm-force winds will hit North and SC with full force on Thursday evening.
Storm surge is deadly.More news: Apple unveils new iPhones, Apple Watch
More news: Liberia president George Weah returns to national team at age of 51
More news: Samsung Teases a Four-Lens Camera With '4x Fun' Event
The National Weather Service is predicting "excessive" rainfall totals, potentially up to 40 inches in isolated areas, as Florence comes to crawl off the coast of the Carolinas before making landfall somewhere near the border of the two states.
A hurricane watch is in effect for Edisto Beach, SC, to South Santee River, SC.
"When you are looking at a storm surge of this magnitude, where the National Weather Service says that the damage is going to be unbelievable and that they can not emphasize that enough, we know that that is a message that we should listen to", said Cooper. "Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion". "There is probably not a county or a person that will not be affected in some way by this very massive and violent storm".
Florence's weakening as it neared the coast created tension between some who left home and authorities who anxious that the storm could still be deadly.
A new tool created by the NHC helps visualize how devastating the storm surge could be. "This is a life-threatening situation", the advisory said. Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other risky conditions. Officials are urging others in its path to follow suit, or prepare for the worst. The gradually slowing but still life-threatening storm is moving northwest at 15 miles per hour (24 kph).
The NOAA's 5 p.m. update included some additional information worth noting.
They don't retire the name of every hurricane - and there's already a buzz that Florence will join the likes of Hazel (1954), Hugo (1989), Fran (1996) and Isabel (2003), the four most destructive hurricanes to strike the southeastern United States.