Emergency preparations in the area included setting up shelters, switching traffic patterns so that all major roads led away from shore and getting 16 nuclear reactors ready in the three-state region for the storm.
The slow movement, combined with the massive amount of moisture this storm holds, will bring risky rains - from 20 to 30 inches in coastal North Carolina, with 40 inches possible in isolated areas, the weather service says.
The threat has sparked a rush of evacuation efforts in SC and North Carolina, with more than a million people urged to get out of Florence's way.
Beach communities in North and SC emptied out on Wednesday as Hurricane Florence threatened to unleash pounding surf and potentially deadly flooding as the most powerful storm to make a direct hit on the states in decades.
Hurricane Florence is blasting toward the Carolinas, carrying sustained winds of up to 130 miles per hour and the threat of "life-threatening storm surge and rainfall", the National Hurricane Center says. "Finally, I ask all Georgians to join me in praying for the safety of our people and all those in the path of Hurricane Florence". With Hurricane Florence set to wallop the area as a Category 4 hurricane, there are fears the ponds could overflow or even collapse amid extremely heavy rain, sending vast amounts of manure from thousands of farms into rivers and contaminating groundwater.
"We can only hope it won't hit hard", White said. At 8 a.m. on Wednesday the storm was located about 855 km southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina.
Gerst photographed the storm 400 kilometers, or 248 miles, above the eye. But the change was probably temporary and didn't do anything to lessen the danger, said Jeff Byard, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Some 3,000 people died in the aftermath of that storm. "Even if you've ridden out storms before, this one is different".
Reacting to the possibility of a more southerly track, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared an emergency but did not immediately order any evacuations.
"We hope to have something left when we get home", she said.
"It's been really nice", Nicole Roland said. "Everyone was sold out", she said. Forecasters also were tracking two other disturbances.