Hurricane Florence is continuing to push towards a landfall around the North Carolina/South Carolina border, and is beginning to lash the central Atlantic seaboard with damaging winds and storm surge.
That storm, which has maximum winds of up to 255 km/h (equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane), was believed to be putting over four million people at risk. "Today the threat becomes a reality".
The storm's centre was about 180km east of Wilmington, North Carolina, at 2pm local time (18:00 GMT) but tropical storm-strength winds and heavy rains already were hitting North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands. "We can not underestimate this storm".
Life-threatening storm surges of up to 13 feet (4m) have been forecast in some areas when the monster storm eventually makes landfall in North and SC.
The entire town of Carolina Beach is just five feet above sea level, which will be no match for the expected storm surge of 13 feet or more.
"Leaving is such a problem with the traffic going out", Jennie told VOA Thursday afternoon as she strolled along the shore of Carolina Beach near Wilmington, North Carolina.
He warned residents to be prepared for mass power outages that could last for days or weeks, echoing the sentiments shared by Duke Energy on Wednesday.
Georgia joined North and South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland in issuing an emergency declaration as forecasts showed Florence dumping historic amounts of rain - potentially 37 trillion litres - on the southern states. Millions of people have evacuated to inland communities as the storm churns westward.
The fates of the region's furry, feathered and finned friends were also up in the air, as staffers scrambled to secure zoos, aquariums and animal shelters. "All across the state of North Carolina and portions of SC, there will be extreme flooding or major flooding at least for a number of days to come".
Zookeepers and veterinarians resolved to hunker down with the creatures and see them through the storm. "That's why we're begging for assistance".
Folks in Charleston, South Carolina, who have chosen not to evacuate, are preparing for a nasty storm that could make landfall right in their backyard.
Empty stores and packed houses alike sit boarded up and bolstered with sandbags, and the streets are empty with curfews in effect in many areas.
The Hurricane Florence has began to unleash fierce rains across the United States southeast.
"They'll be looking very closely at major transmission lines that have tens of thousands of customers associated with them", Penn said.
By late Thursday, people were, for better or for worse, locked into their decision: go or stay.
"It's really risky out right now", Beaufort, NC, Mayor Everette Newton told CNN. "If I can't get back in a week, after a while they might turn on each other or trash the place".