As of Friday afternoon Australian time, Florence was centred about 55 kilometres east of Wilmington, North Carolina. NBC News meteorologist Al Roker described Florence's potential storm surge as "the most risky part of the storm".
"We have lots of water, we've got lots of food, lots of canned food, non-perishable food", she said.
WILMINGTON, North Carolina - The outer edges of Hurricane Florence began lashing coastal North Carolina with heavy winds and flooding roads on Thursday hours before expected landfall that will bring walls of water and lingering downpours.
The storm's intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to about 90 miles per hour by nightfall.
"It truly is really about the whole size of this storm", National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said.
At least 12,000 people had taken refuge in 126 emergency shelters, Cooper said, with more facilities being opened.
Duke said it had more than 20,000 personnel ready to start fixing outages as soon as conditions allowed, including more than 8,000 from Duke's Carolinas utilities, 1,700 from the Midwest, 1,200 from Florida and 9,400 from other utilities.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent". Florence is nearing the coast and is now a Cat 2 Hurricane.
"Just because the wind speed came down, the intensity of this storm came down. please do not let your guard down", said Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), earlier on Thursday.
"It was pitch black and I was just scared out of my mind", said Tracy Singleton, who with her family later drove through torrential rain and high winds from her home near New Bern to a hotel some almost 80 miles (130 km) away.
More than one million people have already been ordered to evacuate the coasts of North and SC and Virginia, with thousands more moved to emergency shelters, officials said. Gen. Robert Livingston. "While that rain is still coming down for a couple of days, one to two days later you're going to have stuff coming from North Carolina and things coming in from the Upstate".
Long said the danger was not only along the coast.
"Remember most storm deaths occur from drowning in fresh water, often in cars". "The larger and the slower the storm is, the greater the threat and the impact - and we have that". Waters from Florence made the road impassable. The homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions.
The hurricane center is forecasting the storm to hover near the coast on Saturday with winds of around 130 kph before landfall, but with rainfall ranging from 50 to 75 centimeters and up to 4 meters of storm surge. "We got thrown into mailboxes, houses, trees", said Holt, who had stayed at home because of a doctor's appointment that was later canceled. One moment, it's going to be real bad; next moment, it's slowing down.
But Norfolk spokeswoman Lori Crouch said city officials would not force people to leave and that it's a "personal choice", the AP reported.
Meanwhile, lane reversals on USA 501 in the Grand Strand ended at noon Thursday and reversals on I-26 ended Thursday night, allowing state police and transportation workers to get to safety before the storm hits.
County officials said damage assessments would not likely begin until Saturday. The home was unscathed despite large trees looming overhead.
"We've wasted three days of discomfort and displacement", he said.
Mr Epperson said: "The anxiety level has dropped substantially".