As of 8am local time (midnight Friday NZT) it was centred about 275km east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and about 355km east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, moving northwest at 20kmh.
The area to the north of Florence's landfall along the North Carolina coast-storm surge is always worst to the "right" of a storm's center, where its rotation pushes water onshore-is less populated and developed than the New Jersey and NY shores.
The National Hurricane Center's best guess was that Florence's eye would blow ashore as early as Friday afternoon around the North Carolina-South Carolina line.
Gradually, Friday through the weekend (local time), the massive storm - containing a zone of tropical-storm-force winds almost 643km wide - will drift inland, engulfing much of SC and southern North Carolina.
Florence is expected to make landfall about 8 a.m. Friday, then stall over the Wilmington region, dumping up to 35 inches of rain and prompting worry of "extreme" flash flooding. "This is an extremely risky situation". "I've never been one to leave for a storm but this one kind of had me spooked". Though Ike had 110mph winds at landfall, it had grown very large over the Gulf of Mexico, and this large size allowed it to develop an enormous amount of "integrated energy" that manifested itself as a devastating storm surge.
The News & Observer reports that the storm's path shifted early Wednesday and it is now bearing down on southern North Carolina and northern SC, where it could dump up to 40 inches of rain in places. The biggest problem will likely be mass power outages, he says.
More than a thousand flights have been canceled in advance of Hurricane Florence's arrival in the Carolinas, and operations at airports along the coast have been suspended as the region braces for impact.
On Thursday, Hurricane Florence was downgraded from a Category 3 to a Category 2 storm.
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Florence could bring wind-driven storm surges of seawater as high as four metres, and NHC director Ken Graham said on Facebook they could push in as far as three kilometres.
By late Thursday afternoon, the Carolina coasts can expect winds topping 80 miles per hour. But Hill said many residents still remained in their homes, possibly hoping to ride out the hurricane.
The wave action and strong winds of Florence will cause a large amount of water to pile up along the coast of North and SC.
SC ordered the mandatory evacuation of one million coastal residents while North Carolina ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks, barrier islands that are a popular tourist destination.
For some residents, evacuation plans were hampered by gasoline shortages. It's already been raining in these areas and the ground is sodden.
"This is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast", said Jeff Byard, associate administrator for response and recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
In neighbouring Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan said his state was readying for potentially "historic and catastrophic rainfall, life-threatening flooding, and high winds". "The combination of a unsafe storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline".
Florence is being trailed in the Atlantic by two other storms - Hurricane Helene and Tropical Storm Isaac.