The big slosh has begun, and the consequences could be disastrous.
NWS confirms that "major to extreme flooding" is likely across central and eastern North Carolina, as Hurricane Florence threatens to pound the area for a full 24 hours.
'North Carolina, my message is clear: Disaster is at the doorstep, and it's coming in'. Heavy rainfall began after dark. The National Hurricane Center said Florence was "forecast to be an extremely risky major hurricane when it nears the USA coast late Thursday and Friday".
Three feet of storm surge moving onto the coastline will result in higher tides and higher water moving onshore.
The storm was downgraded to category three with maximum sustained winds of 120mph (195km/h), but officials say it is still "extremely dangerous". At this time, Florence was a Category 1 hurricane. All seven of North Carolina's ferry routes were shut down. "Today the threat becomes a reality".
Across the Carolinas at least 188,000 people were without power early on Friday. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.
NHC Director Ken Graham said on Facebook the storm surges could push as far as 2 miles (3 km) inland.More news: Apple leads the way with more than just smartphones
Mr Trump was later briefed in the Oval Office in front of TV cameras by Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema).
As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that FEMA and first responders are "supplied and ready", and he disputed the official conclusion that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad. Airlines had canceled almost 1,000 flights and counting.
Wilmington resident Julie Terrell was plenty concerned after walking to breakfast past a row of shops fortified with boards, sandbags and hurricane shutters. It's called Mother Nature.
Hurricane Florence has changed course, according to the latest weather models. That's enough water to fill the Empire State Building almost 40,000 times.
Up to 1.7 million people are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders, and coastal residents were frantically boarding up homes and businesses and hitting the road on Wednesday as the storm approached.
"We hope to have something left when we get home", she said.
'The waves and the wind this storm may bring is nothing like you've ever seen. "A storm can come and wipe your house out overnight".More news: First deaths reported from Hurricane Florence after Wilmington home collapses
Duke Energy told Fox News 3 million customers, which represents about 75 percent of their customers in the Carolinas, could lose power.
By 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, the storm was about 335 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina. Hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles (130 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).
Wilmington, just north of where Florence appeared headed for shore, grew empty and quiet on Wednesday.
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"We do not want to risk one SC life in this hurricane", the governor told reporters.
Winds will be at least 100 miles per hour as the storm approaches the coast. But authorities warned Florence has an enormous wind field that has been growing larger, raising the risk of the ocean surging on to land and making Florence extremely unsafe.
And, if you're already out of Florence's way but want to help, here's how.More news: Kerry Admits Meeting With Zarif Several Times, Says Did Not 'Coach' Him