In contrast to the hurricane centre's official track, a highly regarded European model had the storm turning southward off the North Carolina coast and coming ashore near the Georgia-South Carolina line. Its maximum sustained winds slackened slightly to 125 mph, qualifying it as a Category 3 storm, but its wind field has grown, with hurricane-force winds extending out 70 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds stretching as far as 175 miles from the storm's center.
Most models showed the storm hovering over the central Carolinas through the weekend, with the eye moving into central SC by 8 a.m. Sunday.
Some tropical storms and hurricanes follow freaky tracks.
"The first thing is to protect your life", he said Tuesday morning.
The last time the U.S. capital declared a state of emergency was in January 2016 when a winter storm dubbed "Snowzilla" blanketed the capital region in knee-deep snow.
The coastal surge from Florence could leave the eastern tip of North Carolina under more than 9 feet of water in spots, projections showed.
"With this storm, what's unique is it's forecast to stall. dropping copious amounts of rainfall across the Carolinas and into Virginia", Long said.
Duke Energy Corp expected between 25 percent and 75 percent of its 4 million customers would lose power in the Carolinas. Executives in North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia declared emergencies earlier in the week.
"We have to be careful we're not asking them to come back to Beaufort County through a storm", he said.
Amanda Kinseth, reporter for WPDE ABC 15 News in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
North Carolina has waived transportation rules to help farmers move crops and livestock ahead of the most severe storm to threaten the US mainland this year.
The reconnaissance aircraft found that maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 125 miles per hour (205 km/h) with higher gusts. Florence is now heading for ocean water with surface temperatures of around 85 degrees, meaning it will likely strengthen on its way to the East Coast.
Satellite images show the storm has maintained a distinct eye and is well organized. So, the winds will be winding down much quicker near the coast before those winds get up here.
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.
The path of Hurricane Florence has changed since Cooper made that statement Tuesday.
A search-and-rescue team is being deployed by FEMA from Montgomery County in Maryland to help in SC as the area braces for Hurricane Florence.
As of Tuesday, about 1.7 million people in North and SC and Virginia were under warnings to evacuate the coast, and hurricane watches and warnings extended across an area with about 5.4 million residents.