And that's just the prelude to untold days of misery.
He said hurricane-force winds extend outward 80 miles from the centre of the storm and tropical storm-force winds extend almost 200 miles out. Will Epperson, a 36-year-old golf course assistant superintendent, said he and his wife had planned to ride out the storm at their home in Hampstead, North Carolina, but reconsidered due to its ferocity.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Centre warned that Florence remained deadly because of its size and slow forward speed, even if its top sustained winds have dropped it to Category 2 status as a hurricane.
As of 4 a.m., maximum sustained winds were at 90 miles per hour.
Browning's choice to stay in the hurricane warning zone wasn't easy, she said, but she "could not find anywhere to go". Weather forecasts estimate that the Category 2 storm could dump 17 trillion gallons of rain on the East Coast.More news: HRW accuses China of conducting 'human rights violations' against Muslims
"It's cumulative damage", Myers said. "The ocean is going to start rising". So will the trees.
High winds and downed power lines are another concern for that region. At the same time, some areas can see up to 15 inches of rain, with a few places experiencing up to 30 inches. Florence is expected to arrive in southeast North Carolina on Friday morning before drifting south into SC. The storm was a risky Category 4 hurricane Wednesday but has been downgraded to a Category 2 storm Thursday.
"But it could have a positive effect on eastern parts because it could also bring tropical air".
Schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia, airlines canceled more than 1,500 flights, and coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely emptied out.
"Even the rescuers can not stay there", he said.More news: Australia paper defends Serena Williams cartoon despite outrage
The mayor of Carolina Beach, North Carolina, said authorities have stopped allowing traffic to the island via the only bridge between the island and the mainland. "Flooding is nearly guaranteed".
Hurricanes can push masses of water from the sea over land when they come ashore, raising local sea levels by as much as 20 feet (6 meters), according to the National Hurricane Center. She packed up what she could and took a ferry.
"I have no generator", said Petra Langston, a nurse.
A state of emergency has been declared in five coastal states - North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia - as well as the USA capital Washington.
European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst noted that Florence is so big, they could only photograph it with a super wide-angle lens from the International Space Station. "Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you".More news: Lloris gets driving ban for drink-driving
Parts of the Mid-Atlantic states can also expect heavy rains from what is left of Florence well into next week.