Fierce winds and massive waves are expected to lash the coasts of North and SC and Virginia even before Florence makes landfall by early Friday, bringing a storm surge as much as 13 feet (4 meters).
It was located 575 miles (925 kms) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, and moving at 17 mph (28 kph) in a west-northwest direction.
Tropical storm winds are between 39 and 73 miles per hour, while hurricanes are 74 miles per hour or higher.
Bryan Wood, a meteorologist and storm-damage analyst for Assurant Inc., said that Florence will hamper businesses even after it degrades from hurricane status.
"The time to prepare is nearly over", Cooper warned. About 3000 people died in the aftermath of that storm.
The coastal surge from Florence could leave the eastern tip of North Carolina under more than 9 feet (2.75 meters) of water in spots, projections showed. The National Hurricane Center is calling for 20 to 30 inches (50 to 75 centimeters) of rain in North Carolina, with spots up to 40 inches (100 centimeters).
"Yes, the winds will be bad, but really the water is what will be deadly", said Rob Galbraith, director of underwriting research for insurance firm USAA.
"It's easy to think about the roof blowing off, the windows being shattered, but there's more subtle parts of business interruption", Love said.
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Should other states request storm-related assistance from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, GEMA would in turn ask its Athens counterpart if the county could lend a hand by sending supplies or personnel to storm-ravaged areas.
Forecasters anxious the storm's damage will be all the worse if it lingers on the coast.
They showed us instruments that function nearly like weather balloons, that are dropped into the storm to gather data that satellites can't.
State and federal officials have frequently urged residents in the target zone to evacuate but there was resistance along the coast.
Florence is following a similar sort of path hurricanes as Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 and Hurricane Hugo in the Caribbean and southeastern U.S.in 1989, he said.
At this height of the Atlantic hurricane season, Florence was being trailed on east-to-west paths by two other storms, Hurricane Helene and Tropical Storm Isaac. The rainfall and flood threat would remain extreme, and there could be a southwestward-propagating storm surge along the coast.
Some 7,000 guard members are ready to mobilize in North Carolina, while 1,100 will be activated in SC.
Florence will bring large rainfall totals through Saturday in North Carolina, north SC and Virginia, causing catastrophic flash flooding.