Hurricane Hunter Aircraft have been flying through Florence all morning long, and as of 8 a.m. have found the storm to have weakened slightly. "When you stall a system like this and it moves real slow, some of that rainfall can extend well away from the center".
Experts say the East Coast should prepare for a blow by the middle of the week as the hurricane rapidly intensifies.
"We here in North Carolina are bracing for a hard hit", Cooper said Monday.
Florence could bring a deadly coastal storm surge, and inland flooding as far north as Virginia, the NHC said. Florence was a Category 4 storm late afternoon Monday.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's office described Florence as possibly the state's "most significant hurricane event in decades", and warned of "catastrophic inland flooding, high winds and possible widespread power outages".
Florence grew into a major hurricane on Monday morning and was upgraded again to a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength at midday as its top sustained wind speeds reached 130 miles per hour.
North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia have declared states of emergency in preparation for the potential impact of Florence. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster also suspended his campaign and asked President Donald Trump for a federal emergency declaration.
"Spaghetti" models for Hurricane Florence as of Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018.
The governors of Virginia, North Carolina and SC have all declared states of emergency.
Many newcomers have moved to the coast in the almost 19 years since the last strong hurricane - Floyd - threatened the area.
Residents along the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic coasts should continue to prepare for a major hurricane landfall and have an evacuation plan.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper's office said Florence is already being felt along the state's coast, with large sea swells resulting in life-threatening rip currents and surf.
Storm surge and hurricane watches may be issued Tuesday morning for portions of southeastern USA states, the NHC said.
Heavy rain in the Washington area over the weekend had already led to flooding in historic Alexandria, Virginia, local media reported, and the National Weather Service issued a flood watch for part of the Potomac River.
In coastal Charleston, South Carolina, city officials offered sandbags to residents.
Florida-based Carnival Cruise Line was re-routing its cruise ships, but there were other hurricanes to contend with.
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