Wind approaches outer banks of North Carolina

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption People have left homes and taken precautions ahead of the hurricane

At this time, Florence was a Category 1 hurricane. But forecasters warned that the widening storm - and its likelihood of lingering around the coast day after day - will bring seawater surging onto land and torrential downpours.

According to the National Hurricane Center's "hurricane hunter" airplane, waves of 83-feet were measured near the eye of Florence on Monday.

"When you are looking at a storm surge of this magnitude, where the National Weather Service says that the damage is going to be unbelievable and that they can not emphasize that enough, we know that that is a message that we should listen to", said Cooper.

Abrams says he expects Hurricane Florence to bring 10 to 20 inches of rain in most places and that the Carolinas can expect extensive flooding.

He urged people in the coastal Carolinas and living near inland rivers to evacuate.

As of 11 p.m., Florence was centered about 85 miles (135 kilometers) east-southeast of Wilmington, its forward movement slowed to 5 mph (7 kph). Tropical storm force winds extend up to 200 miles (320 kilometers) from the center.

Hurricane Florence has started to hit the North Carolina coast.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned residents not to "underestimate" the storm.

A fast-moving hurricane can be deadly, but a hurricane that stalls-meaning that it spends more time pounding a particular area with strong winds and heavy rain-can be even worse.

The result could be what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago - catastrophic inland flooding that could swamp homes, businesses, fields and industrial sites.

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The police chief of a barrier island in Florence's approach said he was asking for next-of-kin contact information from the few residents who refused to leave.

As many as three million people are expected to lose power.

"Do not let your guard down with the changing #Florence forecast".

"Don't relax, don't get complacent. Today the threat becomes a reality", he said.

More than 1 million people had been ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia and thousands have moved to emergency shelters.

Risk modelling company RMS noted that its slowdown will be very significant to the damage it causes and the losses it generates and acknowledges that this differs from the original predictions of its track.

More than 22,600 people were housed in 150 shelters statewide, including schools, churches and Wake Forest University's basketball arena. As of Thursday, almost a dozen airports have shut down, with more than 1,000 flights being canceled. Home Depot and Lowe's activated emergency response centres to get generators, rubbish bags and bottled water to stores before and after the storm. "But they come and they go in a matter of minutes".

Duke Energy Co. said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks. Some 3,000 people died in the aftermath of that storm.

Anxious about how the government will respond to Hurricane Florence's devastation?

"I was feeling fine until I woke up this morning and this is a ghost town", said Kristin Beard, a 40-year-old Myrtle Beach marketer.

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