Fierce winds and massive waves are expected to lash the coasts of North and SC and Virginia even before Florence makes landfall bringing a storm surge as much as 13 feet (4 meters), the National Hurricane Center in Miami warned.
"We expect it to approach the coast early Friday morning, begin to have hurricane force winds, storm surge, and catastrophic inland flooding", William Lapenta told Hill.TV's Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on "Rising".
As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center showed Florence as a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 125 miles per hour moving west-northwest at 16 miles per hour. "Everyone was sold out", she said. The southeast coast of North Carolina will experience a prolonged storm surge reaching up to nine to 13 feet from near the mouth of the Cape Fear to Cape Lookout.
Timing: When Will Hurricane Florence Strike?
And while take-offs aboard the Gulfstream 4 aircraft are smooth, once they enter a hurricane it's intense, and the flights last for eight hours.
Expected to make landfall by Friday, the impact of the storm will be widespread, with destructive winds, life-threatening storm surge, risky surf, torrential rainfall, flooding and the potential for tornadoes.
"Wave heights to 83 ft were measured early this morning under the [northeast] quadrant of Hurricane Florence", tweeted the National Hurricane Center.
Federal officials begged residents to put together emergency kits and have a plan on where to go.
"In collaboration with state emergency agencies and the Georgia Hospital Association, we are monitoring bed counts daily so that we can quickly and accurately assist with any necessary evacuations", said Sydney Walker, spokesperson for Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center.
"This storm is going to knock out power days into weeks".
20 to 30 inches will fall on southeastern North Carolina, Charlotte could see around five to 10 inches of rain.
Forecasters said that given the storm's size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses and washing over industrial waste sites and hog-manure ponds.
Cooper said Florence would "continue its violent grind across the state for days".
North Carolina's governor issued what he called a first-of-its-kind mandatory evacuation order for North Carolina's fragile barrier islands from one end of the coast to the other. "It's a big one", he said.
The worst of the storm's fury had yet to reach coastal SC, where emergency managers said it was not too late for people to get out.