As of Thursday morning, forecast models showed the storm bringing more rain than originally thought - officials now predict 35 inches of rain will fall in a two-day period as Florence, now a Category 2 storm with 115 miles per hour sustained winds, will stall over Wilmington after making landfall early Friday morning.
One resident, 67-year-old Linda Smith, told the MailOnline: "We're a little anxious about the storm surge so we came down to see what the river is doing now". He said parts of North Carolina had seen storm surges - the bulge of seawater pushed ashore by the hurricane - as high as 10 feet.
That's not to say the dangers of Hurricane Florence aren't serious.
In New Bern, where a curfew was in place, city authorities said at least 150 people were awaiting rescue. CORRECTING TYPO IN CITY NAME Vechicles are seen as members of the U.S. Army rescue people during the passing of Hurricane Florence in the town of New Bern, North Carolina, U.S. September 14, 2018. Almost 900,000 homes and businesses were without power in the Carolinas early on Friday, utility officials said.
In southeastern coastal North Carolina into far northeastern SC up to 40 inches of rain could fall, producing "catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding", said the NHC.
The river swamped the town after Hurricane Matthew came through two years ago: One church parishioner drowned during that storm, more than 700 families were displaced from their homes, and two of the city's largest public housing projects were destroyed, Foreman said.
"It got a little sporty", he said, wearing a yellow fluorescent work vest and hard hat.
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North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said the hurricane was "wreaking havoc" on the coast and could wipe out entire communities as it makes its "violent grind across our state for days". "Catastrophic effects will be felt". The remnants of Florence are expected to hit the peaks of western North Carolina in a couple of days.
It is expected to move across parts of south-eastern North Carolina and eastern SC on Friday and Saturday, then head north over the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC said.
A warming climate also means that the atmosphere can hold more and more water vapor, fueling hurricanes with even more water that can fall on coastal areas.
Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it's unclear how many did.
More than 306,000 residents and businesses, mostly in eastern counties, were without power as of 5 a.m. Friday, according to online updates from Duke Energy, the N.C. Electric Cooperatives and smaller utility companies.
Antonio Ramirez, a construction worker from El Salvador living in Leland, North Carolina, said he planned to ride out the worst of the weather with his dog Canelo. All of the supplies from that shelter were coordinated with the school division and will remain part of the supplies for York County schools, Whitaker said.
In Wilmington, residents who had decided not to evacuate were lining up to get ice from a vending machine - $2 for a 16-pound (7.2-kilo) bag.
"New Bern is just not used to this level of a hurricane", Outlaw said. "I learned from the past to keep the ice in the washing machine".