The projected path for Hurricane Florence shifted south toward SC, according to a Wednesday morning updated from the National Weather Service, means the Triangle could avoid a direct hit as the Category 4 storm moves inland.
Forecast models show the storm slowing to a crawl off the North Carolina coast late on Thursday or Friday and make a southern turn.
Its maximum sustained winds slackened slightly to 125 mph, qualifying it as a Category 3 storm, but its wind field has grown, with hurricane-force winds extending out 70 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds stretching as far as 175 miles from the storm's center.
A graphic of Hurricane Florence's path, generated today (Sept. 12) at 2 p.m. ET by the National Hurricane Center, shows an approximate representation of coastal areas under a hurricane warning (red), hurricane watch (pink), tropical storm warning (blue) and tropical storm watch (yellow).
The NHC said the first tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 miles per hour (63kph) would hit the region early on Thursday with the storm's centre reaching the coast on Friday.
The hurricane is gaining pace as it heads for the Carolinas, where 1.7million people have been told to evacuate. "So this is not just going to be a coastal threat".
The US east coast is bracing for more than 40 inches of rain as Hurricane Florence barrels nearer to land.
As of now, Florence is due to make landfall very early Friday morning, somewhere in the Carolinas.
Strengthening Hurricane Florence blasts toward U.S. East Coast
One high altitude jet, nicknamed Gonzo, has been flying through the storm to collect information over the weekend. Today was another day of plentiful heat and humidity, but the forecast will take a more soggy turn Monday.
President Donald Trump has declared states of emergency for North and SC and Virginia, saying the USA government is "absolutely, totally prepared" for Florence. Forecasts predict as much as 20 inches of rain in some places but one computer model warned there could be up to 45 inches, almost four feet.
The storm is expected to hit the Carolinas hard later this week. The storm is moving west-northwest at 17 mph and is 785 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina.
He warned people in surrounding areas to "remain vigilant" and expect flash floods at the start of next week.
The storm could cause a life-threatening storm surge, essentially walls of water, ahead of landfall which is why FEMA warns that Wednesday is the last feasible day to evacuate areas vulnerable to the storm. He underlined the point that even if you call 911, there is a chance rescue services may not be able to get to you.
Michael Kennedy, an engineer at Boeing, said he planned to leave on Tuesday for his parents' home in Atlanta, Georgia. But one thing it might actually help is to reduce the overall wind speed, though we're still going to have gusty winds around here which combined with that wet soil could bring down some trees.
"Florence is intensifying", said North Carolina's Governor Roy Cooper, adding: "This storm is strong, and its gettings stronger".
The state of North Carolina is preparing for a major storm.
On the five-level Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale Florence is a Category 4, meaning it is capable of causing "catastrophic damage". As it turns into southern SC.