As of 5:00 am (1100 GMT), Florence was a unsafe Category 4 hurricane packing sustained winds of 130 miles per hour (220 kilometers per hour), the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
Up to 1.7 million people have now been ordered to leave their homes as the USA braces for Hurricane Florence.
The intensity of the wind and rain we'll see here is dependent on the exact track of the storm. If you do, move to a higher ground before the storm arrives.
The evacuations continued as Florence weakened a bit in its charge towards the East Coast, downgrading from a Category 3 storm to a Category 2, the National Hurricane Center said in its latest update.
Deal said he was issuing the emergency declaration for all 159 counties in Georgia "in light of the storm's forecasted southward track after making landfall". But getting out of harm's way could prove hard.
Michelle Stober loaded up valuables on Tuesday at her home on Wrightsville Beach to take back to her primary residence in Cary, North Carolina. Finding fuel for the journey was tough.
"This morning I drove around for an hour looking for gas in Cary".
Hurricane Irma destroyed Kathy Griffin's house in Florida past year, and it could be days before she finds out whether Florence smashed her fifth-story condominium in Wrightsville Beach, where authorities said utilities could be out for days or weeks.
Deal asked all Georgians to join him in "praying for the safety of our people and all those in the path of Hurricane Florence".
People across the region rushed to buy bottled water and other supplies, board up their homes, pull their boats out of the water and get out of town. "Better safe than sorry". Many gasoline stations were running low on fuel. Some store shelves were picked clean. Eight dogs and 18 cats from a shelter in Norfolk, Virginia, were sent to two shelters in Washington to make room for pets expected to be displaced by the hurricane.
Florence's top winds were clocked on Thursday evening at 90 miles per hour (150 km/h) as it churned in the Atlantic Ocean, down from a peak of 140 miles per hour (224 km/h) earlier this week when it was classified as a Category 4 storm.
The area could be subject to life-threatening flooding caused by Hurricane Florence despite lowered rainfall projections, according to the National Weather Service.
That system could develop into a tropical depression by Thursday night.
Speaking in the Oval Office alongside Trump, FEMA administrator Brock Long said Hurricane Florence may be a "very devastating storm".
Areas along the coast from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, NC, including the Neuse, Pamlico, Pungo and Bay rivers may experience storm surges from 9 to 13 feet.
"This is a life-threatening situation", the center said in an early morning bulletin.
Federal officials begged residents to put together emergency kits and have a plan on where to go. They are now flying into Isaac and also have a plane ready for storm recovery after Florence hits. It's going to destroy infrastructure. In South Carolina and inland parts of North Carolina, 5 to 10 inches of rain could fall, with 20 inches possible in some areas.
The water "is as high as it's ever been, and waves are breaking on my point, which is normally grass", said Copeland, a freelance photographer for The Associated Press. The Triad has around a 50% chance of having sustained Tropical Storm force winds.
On Monday, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster ordered the medical evacuation of all hospitals in flood zones in Myrtle Beach, which led to Grand Strand Medical Center transferring patients to sister hospitals, including Doctors Hospital of Augusta. Typically, local governments in North Carolina make the call on evacuations.
At least 150,000 people were without power in North Carolina early on Friday with the brunt of the storm yet to come, according to utility companies. "It's a big one", he said.