"On the forecast track, the center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas through Wednesday, and approach the coast of North Carolina or SC in the hurricane watch area Thursday and Friday", the NHC said. A Storm Surge watch means the possibility of "life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland" over the next 48 hours.
A warm ocean is the fuel that powers hurricanes, and Florence will be moving over waters where temperatures are peaking near 30C, hurricane specialist Eric Blake wrote.
Elizabeth City State University announced it was cancelling classes today after noon and starting a voluntary evacuation of student residence halls.
The waste can be a significant problem when there's storm surge and heavy rain, as a lot of North Carolina's hog production is close to the coast, according to Will Sawyer, an Atlanta-based economist at CoBank.
With weather forecasters calling the storm "life threatening", Cooper said officials are watching three main issues - storm surge along the coastline, strong winds which could be heavier than any the state has experienced in recent years, and inland flooding and heavy rains.
And an unusual combination of other weather systems that are likely to stall Florence when it hits the Carolinas, allowing it to sit for days and dump huge amounts of rain.
Rain will overspread Virginia on Friday with tropical storm force winds possible on Saturday, especially across Southside Virginia. "Everyone was sold out", she said.
One trusted computer model, the European simulation, predicted more than 115cm in parts of North Carolina.
Hurricane Florence has forced the cancellation of several Top 25 games this weekend, including No. 13 Virginia Tech's home game against East Carolina, No. 14 West Virginia's trip to North Carolina State and No. 18 UCF's game at North Carolina.
With little wind shear to pull the storm apart, Florence's hurricane wind field is expected to expand over the coming days, increasing its storm surge and inland wind threats.
The National Hurricane Center says a new report from an Air Force Reserve Unit hurricane hunter aircraft indicates that Hurricane Florence's top sustained winds have decreased slightly to 130 miles per hour (215 kph), with higher gusts.
"This storm is going to knock out power days into weeks".
Utilities deployed crews and gear in advance, with workers en route to the region from at least 15 states, according to trade group, the Edison Electric Institute.
Virginia, home to major government and military facilities, declared a state of emergency and 245,000 coastal residents there were ordered to evacuate by 8:00 am Tuesday including from the Eastern Shore, another popular beachfront getaway destination. "It is likely some areas will flood that have never flooded before".
"On the five-level Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale Florence is a Category 4, meaning "catastrophic damage" can occur". A hospital in Hampton, Virginia, was transferring patients to safer places. 'We continue to urge all South Carolinians to listen to the information from emergency personnel and to not take this storm lightly.
"We are sparing no expense".
North Carolina has waived transportation rules to help farmers move crops and livestock ahead of the most severe storm to threaten the US mainland this year. Some 3,000 people died in the aftermath of that storm. So does the prospect of replacing North Carolina with another team on the schedule. The risk of flash flooding is 20%, or moderate, for the eastern third of North Carolina. Get to the grocery store.
"The coal-ash sites are very vulnerable to this hurricane and any other", said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. "What is flooding going to do to our home, our city?"
Helene is a Category 2 storm that's even farther off the coast than both of the other storms, but it's not expected to ever make landfall.