By mid-afternoon the winds had dropped to 75 miles per hour (120 kph) and the center was moving west at 6 miles per hour (10 kph), the NHC said, and parts of North and SC would get as much as 40 inches of rain (1 meter).
Forecasters are predicting that the storm will continue to weaken but still dump potentially record-breaking amounts of rain as it moves slowly inland. Power outages were already creeping up along the North Carolina coast as tropical storm-force winds started sweeping over land. "This will cause extremely unsafe flooding", the Federal Emergency Management Agency warned.
The storm was expected to move across parts of southeastern North Carolina and eastern SC on Friday and Saturday, then head north over the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC said.
Forecasters said "catastrophic" freshwater flooding was expected along waterways far from the coast of North and SC.
Florence was a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 120-mph winds on Thursday.
"Don't play games with it. It's a big one".
Airlines canceled more than 2,100 flights through Sunday. Home Depot and Lowe's activated emergency response centers to get generators, trash bags and bottled water to stores before and after the storm.
"I'm lucky to be here today, but wherever they're going to send me I'm going".
Andhra CM announces Rs 2 cut in petrol, diesel price from Tuesday
Elsewhere in Maharashtra, in Thane petrol retailed at Rs 88.43 and diesel Rs 77.64, Mumbai was Rs 88.35 and diesel at Rs 77.56. MNS chief Raj Thackeray, said the current BJP dispensation at the Centre is "worse" than the erstwhile UPA government.
As Florence pounded away, it unloaded heavy rain, flattened trees, chewed up roads and knocked out power to more than a half-million homes and businesses. Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm's aftermath, it said.
"We're a resilient community, we work well together, we'll get through this", Outlaw said.
Computer models of exactly what the storm might do varied, adding to the uncertainty. A mandatory evacuation order was issued for the area earlier this week.
Morehead City resident Rebecca Marson decided not to evacuate because her surgeon husband wanted to remain behind with other first responders.
Emergency declarations were in force in Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
"I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth", Ballance said.
"We know we're in for a long haul here", Cooper said of predictions that the storm will linger over the area.
She tried to row out of her neighborhood Thursday night with a boat that was in her yard after her home began to flood, but had to retreat because of the poor conditions.
Images and video posted on Twitter from the town of Washington, North Carolina, show that floodwaters have travelled as much as 30 miles (nearly 50 kilometers) inland along the Pamlico River, drowning the riverfront.
The town of Oriental, North Carolina, got more than 18 inches of rain in just a few hours, while Surf City had 14 inches. "Also, a little creepy".