Senior National Hurricane Center specialist Stacy Stewart said the impacts of the storm will cover a wide area "regardless of exactly where the center of Florence moves".
More than 60 people, including an infant, children and their pets, were rescued from a collapsing hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, at the height of the storm, according to the Associated Press.
In the 11 p.m. ET advisory, Florence was 280 miles southeast of Wilmington, NC, packing maximum-sustained winds of 110 mph and moving to the northwest at 17 mph.
Florence could strengthen some over open water and then weaken as it nears land, but the difference won't make it any less risky, forecaster Stacy Stewart wrote in a National Hurricane Center discussion.
All that water is worrisome for a region that just had a rainy season, meaning the soil there is fairly saturated and the rivers there are already high. It was also expected to slip briefly back into the open water during the journey.
Even with some weakening that is predicted just before it makes landfall, the storm "is expected to remain a risky major hurricane as it approaches the coastline", the hurricane center said. Potential threats from hurricanes include powerful winds, heavy rainfall, storm surges, coastal and inland flooding, rip currents, tornadoes, and landslides.
Greg Postel, hurricane and storm specialist for The Weather Channel.
Meanwhile, some of North Carolina's 2,100 industrial-size hog farmers are scrambling to drain waste pools containing manure before the hurricane hits, according to NPR.
Forecast maps show Florence stalling out just off the coast of the Carolinas for at least 24 hours, starting Friday morning.
Even with the storm raging, the Army Corps of Engineers prepared to start work to restore power, install temporary roofing and remove debris. Gigi Charlebois, owner of the Edenton Coffee House on the northern shore of North Carolina's Albemarle Sound, chose to stay with her family overnight in the shop's dining room, sleeping on couches, pull-out cots and a mattress. "Everyone was sold out", she said.
"It's unsafe, a lot of trees", Charlebois said.
A wind pattern that allows a storm to get strong and stay strong. "We're kind of at the mercy of the storm". Plus, they'd be there in the morning if first responders needed them.
A hurricane warning - meaning hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours - is in effect for a long stretch of the coast, from the South Santee River in SC to Duck, N.C., which is part of the Outer Banks.
Florence is unusual in that it is aiming at the Carolinas from the east.
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