It is predicted to deliver tropical-storm-force winds by noon Thursday to North Carolina's coast, and hurricane-force winds and unsafe storm surges by late Thursday or early Friday.
The "cone of error" in the forecast track only predicts where the storm's center might go, and even on its edges, winds can push a powerful storm surge into shore dozens of miles from where Florence's eyewall strikes land.
The hurricane's "cone of uncertainty" shifted south to contain a larger area of southeastern SC this morning - including Beaufort County. But most people are more concerned about wind damage than storm surge, Baker said.
School districts, local governments, schools, churches, and other institutions were also closing across the states.
If some of the computer projections hold, "it's going to come roaring up to the coast Thursday night and say, 'I'm not sure I really want to do this, and I'll just take a tour of the coast and decide where I want to go inland,"' said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private Weather Underground forecasting service. Allison Jones said she's not taking any chances. Streets were quiet with schools and many offices and businesses closed.
That same section of coastline and locations to the south near Myrtle Beach will also likely experience a prolonged period of destructive winds resulting in power outages that could last for days or weeks.
"They told me to bring a pillow and blanket", Whisler said.
Charleston, resident William Belli said he would not be among those joining the exodus. Walking his dog along empty streets, Belli said he's well stocked with food and water.
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"I'll leave if the winds are still above 130 miles per hour, because my house hasn't been built to resist more", he said.
Millions have been ordered to evacuate their homes as the storm rages closer to the mainland.
Forecasters said parts of North Carolina could get 20in of rain, if not more, with as much as 10in elsewhere in the state and in Virginia, parts of Maryland and Washington DC.
"Ever stared down the gaping eye of a category 4 hurricane?"
"It's possible it could be even higher than that depending on how quickly the storm moves to the coast, but we're kind of expecting it to slow down as it moves to the coast and would probably cut down the storm surge", AccuWeather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski says.
Fort AP Hill and Fort Bragg were selected as FEMA Incident Support and Federal Staging Area to assist in the response, the army said.
Some 7,000 guard members are ready to mobilize in North Carolina, while 1,100 will be activated in SC.
However, it's not too late to prepare for Hurricane Florence - or any other storm that may move through Coweta County.