The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm was expected to hover along the southern edge of the North Carolina coast from Thursday night until making landfall Saturday morning.
The NHC said the first tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 miles per hour (63 kph) would hit the region early on Thursday with the storm's centre reaching the coast Friday.
Though Florence won't be making landfall until Friday, tropical-storm-force winds - 39 to 73 miles per hour (63 to 117 km/h) - will begin whipping through coastal regions as early as tomorrow, making it exceptionally risky to be outside, Graham said.
The storm, which is building up over the Atlantic, is due to make landfall in either North or SC within the next few days, and is expected to be the worst storm to hit the area in 30 years.
"The state is mobilising all available resources to ensure public safety", Deal said. "I encourage Georgians to be prepared for the inland effects of the storm as well as the ensuing storm surge in coastal areas". The map below shows the greatest impacts in North Carolina and along the eastern coastline, as far south as Charleston and as far north as New Jersey.
A state of emergency has also been declared in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington.
The News & Observer reports that the storm's path shifted early Wednesday and it is now bearing down on southern North Carolina and northern SC, where it could dump up to 40 inches of rain in places.
To whip up a monstrous storm like the one chugging for the Carolinas you need a handful of ingredients - and Florence has them all.
The latest GFS Model shows the storm approaching North Carolina, covering the state in precipitation over a fairly short amount of time.
"Today is the time to get your preparedness actions complete", he said.
David Cascaddea said he has lived in Wilmington for 35 years and the storm clouds rolling in won't chase him away.
"This will be a storm that creates and causes massive damage to our country".
"If I need to evacuate I can go to my son's house" in North Carolina, Sparks said as he carted a load of water bottles to his auto.
"This is a real hurricane that we have coming and our goal is to protect lives and property", said Steve Goldstein, NOAA liaison to FEMA. More than 2,000 Florida utility workers were also sent to help restore power after the storm hits.
While one man concluded: 'We are about to get pounded, but since we have absolutely no control over it, all you can do is laugh, and pray for the best'.