US Southeast power companies said more than 188,000 homes and businesses in North Carolina and SC were without power early Friday as Hurricane Florence caused a deluge ahead of its landfall later in the day.
At least 188,000 people are already without power in North Carolina and SC early on Friday.
ADCIRC predicts Florence's winds will cause 9 to 13 feet of storm surge in some areas along the North Carolina coast.
The center said the threat of freshwater flooding will increase over the next several days.
Antonio Ramirez, a construction worker from El Salvador living in Leland, North Carolina, said he planned to ride out the worst of the weather with his dog Canelo.
Like Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Florence is expected to slow significantly when it reaches the coast, allowing the storm to dump a catastrophic amount of rain in the Carolinas.
Storm surge is deadly.
The pivot in the forecasted track of Florence led Georgia's governor to declare a state of emergency for all 159 counties, home to 10.5 million people.
Forecasters expect Florence to hit the Carolinas early in the morning on September 14.
"This rainfall will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding", the NHC said.
There were no immediate reports of storm-related deaths or serious injuries, but authorities said more than 100 people were rescued further north in New Bern, where the downtown area of the city of 30,000 people was under water. Restoring power to all customers could take weeks, it said.
Near the beach in Wilmington, a Waffle House restaurant, part of a chain with a reputation for staying open during disasters, had no plan to close even if power was lost, and there were lines to get in on Thursday evening.
"This is a very unsafe storm", said FEMA's Long, urging people still in evacuation zones to heed orders to flee to safer ground. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.
Rescue helicopters and trucks that can navigate floodwaters are also standing by.
Officials say anyone who has not heeded mandatory evacuation orders is on his own. Hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles (130 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds reached out to 195 miles (315 kilometers). "So if you're on the beach the time to go is now".
"I'm anxious about what I might find when I go home, though", she said.
The police chief of Wrightsville Beach suggested that those who chose to stay give him their next-of-kin contact information.
"This is an absolute life-threatening scenario. We were able to evacuate quite a few; some did not go", he said. "We're fully prepared. Food, medical, everything you can imagine, we are ready". But residents inland are warned to expect life-threatening floods and should plan to be without power for days.
"It will be historic", Baker said of the rain from Florence.