New Bern, a city of about 30,000 residents, has been under a mandatory evacuation order since Tuesday.
Locals in the Carolina states have said they have little trust in the authorities and fear they would not get much support from central government should the area be devastated by the hurricane, given the response to the devastation caused by Maria to Puerto Rico past year.
The NHC measured wave heights of up to 83 feet - the equivalent of a seven-story building - as Florence churned in the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday.
Florence has been downgraded to a Category 1 storm, but forecasters say it is still capable of delivering a lethal punch. And this is just the beginning.
If winds pick up beyond 40 or 50 miles per hour, ravens and eagles will me moved to a holding area, and pink-back pellicans and white-breasted cormorants may be moved to the indoor section of the zoo's Penguin Coast exhibit. We have wind and rain.
Florence could threaten the largest rainfall event in US history, Hurricane Harvey, the 2017 whirlwind that settled over Texas and dropped more than 60 inches of rain, turning roadways into rivers, destroying homes and buildings and killing almost 90 people. "We have Hurricane Florence just sort of hovering over the area right now and we expect expect it to continue doing that for some time".More news: U.S., Canada slug it out as deadline looms to clinch NAFTA
The Maryland SPCA, meanwhile, plans to continue focusing on the needs of local pets during the storm. "I've lived here all my life".
The impact of the storm is already being felt by those caught in its path. Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm's aftermath, it said. By midnight, Amy Johnson in Belhaven, North Carolina, on the Pungo River posted a video of raging floodwaters that had inundated the first floor of her home. Video footage showed parking lots in the riverfront town of New Bern turn into shallow lakes of dirty gray water as heavy rain fell.
He said parts of North Carolina had seen storm surges - the bulge of seawater pushed ashore by the hurricane - as high as 3.5m.
"It truly is really about the whole size of the storm", said National Hurricane Center head Ken Graham.
More than 370,000 people were without power in North Carolina early on Friday, state officials said. The few cars out on a main street in Wilmington had to swerve to avoid fallen trees, metal debris and power lines.
Jacksonville Public Safety spokesperson Beth Purcell tells TIME that flood waters have not yet reached Jacksonville, but that conditions are "very poor".
Coastal streets in the Carolinas flowed with frothy ocean water, and at least 510,000 homes and businesses were without power, almost all of them in North Carolina, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the nation's electrical grid.