"A slow motion across portions of eastern and central SC is forecast Friday night through Saturday night".
A man walks past a boarded-up business in Wilmington, N.C., ahead of the storm. No significant storm surge is expected in the Savannah area, but rip tides are likely through Friday, making swimming risky.
About 10 million people could be affected by the storm.
"This storm will bring destruction", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said.
"But can't replace us, so we chose to come here", said the 39-year-old. "Surviving this storm will be a test of endurance, teamwork, common sense and patience".
Late on Thursday night he requested that Donald Trump declare the situation a disaster so federal aid could quickly be received to speed up the cleanup and recovery.
The path of Hurricane Florence sees it going over some of the poorest areas on the eastern seaboard. According to reports, orders have already been given to evacuate more than 1 million people residing near Carolina and Virginia region while many have been moved to shelter homes.
The county is also offering free shuttles to shelters to encourage people to leave and weighing a curfew to deter people from going out on roads until weather conditions improve.
Airlines have cancelled more than 1,500 flights, and coastal towns across the Carolinas are largely empty after 1.7 million people in three states were told to clear out.
Two women who were riding out the storm dance to the music outside the Barbary Coast bar in downtown Wilmington, N.C., as Hurricane Florence threatens the coast, September 13, 2018.
SC ordered the mandatory evacuation of one million coastal residents while North Carolina announced an evacuation of the Outer Banks, a popular tourist destination.
The Canadian government has warned citizens against travel to the stretch of the U.S. East Coast that is expected to be hammered by Florence.
By midday, Spanish moss blew sideways in the trees as the winds increased in Wilmington.
Hours earlier, streets along the coast had been transformed into raging streams, and massive waves surged along the Outer Banks.
Avair Vereen, 39, took her seven children to a shelter in Conway High School near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The storm's center was about 108 miles (173 km) east of Wilmington, North Carolina, at 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT) but already some 19,000 homes and businesses were without power by mid-afternoon in the Carolinas and Virginia.
Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm's aftermath, the company said.
Conditions are rapidly deteriorating along the coast of the Carolinas as Florence approaches.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated as Hurricane Florence closes in on North Carolina's coast with "life-threatening" winds.
Water kills more people in hurricanes than wind, and Masters said Florence would still be an extremely risky storm for rain and storm surge.
The center downgraded Florence to a Category 1 hurricane, but warned that it still carried "very unsafe winds".
Warning of looming storm surges of nine to 12 feet (2.7-3.6 meters), he urged residents to take the storm seriously no matter the category, saying "this is all about the water, anyway".
The hurricane was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as sluggish and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico previous year. In some counties, almost 1 in 3 people live below the poverty line.