Emergency preparations included activating more than 2,700 National Guard troops, stockpiling food, setting up shelters, switching traffic patterns so major roads led away from shore, and securing 16 nuclear power reactors in the Carolinas and Virginia.
But the NHC warned that Florence still poses a deadly threat to a wide stretch of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, from southern Georgia into southern Virginia, and remained capable of unleashing rain-fuelled catastrophic flooding of rivers and low-lying areas.
North Carolina's governor's office said a third person was killed while plugging in a generator.
"This is not going to be a glancing blow", the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Jeff Byard said in Washington.
More than 415,000 homes and businesses were without power September 14 morning according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the nation's electrical grid.
For people living inland in the Carolinas, the moment of maximum peril from flash flooding could arrive days later, because it takes time for rainwater to drain into rivers and for those streams to crest.More news: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos launches a $2 bln philanthropic fund
"The time to prepare is nearly over", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a morning news conference.
By Friday evening, Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm, its winds weakened to 70 mph as it moved forward at 3 mph about 15 miles north of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Saturday's scheduled game between SC and Marshall has been canceled.
Officials in the town of 30,000, which dates to the early 18th century, said over 100 people were rescued from floods and the downtown was under water by Friday afternoon.
WILMINGTON (North Carolina) • Hurricane Florence, weakened but still unsafe, crashed into the Carolinas yesterday as a giant, slow-moving storm that stranded residents with flood waters and swamped part of the town of New Bern at the beginning of what could be a days-long deluge.
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 unsafe to be outside, Graham said.More news: WNBA Finals: Storm sweep Mystics to win third title
About 1,600 animals at the North Carolina Zoo are hunkered down, with zoo workers moving swiftly to get elephants, giraffes, chimpanzees and hundreds of other species indoors to safety.
In Jacksonville, North Carolina, more than 60 people were evacuated from a hotel after part of the roof collapsed, city officials said.
Eudy's family has lived in New Bern since the 1850s, he said. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU".
Hurricane Florence crashed into the Carolinas on Friday, knocking down trees and swamping streets with torrential rains and a powerful storm surge, before slowing to a pace that meant it would plague the area with days of flooding.
USA TODAYA watch of Hurricane Florence from the Global Attach Space.(Characterize: Alexander Gerst, ESA/NASA) With Hurricane Florence churning toward the East Stagger, NASA released a flawless video and photos of the storm from condo.A excessive-definition digital camera outdoors the Global Attach Space captured video Tuesday."Ever stared down the gaping sight of a category Four storm?"
"These are folks who made a decision to stay and ride out the storm for whatever reason, despite having a mandatory evacuation", she said.More news: High turnout expected in Swedish election