Florence's top winds were clocked on Thursday evening at 90 miles per hour (150 km/h) as it churned in the Atlantic Ocean, down from a peak of 140 miles per hour (224 km/h) earlier this week when it was classified a Category 4 storm.
Tropical storm-force winds extended 195 miles from Florence's centre, and hurricane-force winds reached out 70 miles.
FlightAware expects the number of cancellations to rise, although "the limited number of hubs being impacted by Florence will likely limit the scale of disruption that cascades through the national air travel system", spokeswoman Sara Orsi said in a statement.
Storms have previously battered North and South Carolina - Hurricane Hugo in 1989 was particularly severe - but storms of Florence's scope, with winds of upwards of 130mph, are rare in this region.
The monster storm - which briefly flirted with category five status on its march across the Atlantic - was located roughly 170 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina as of 8:00 a.m. EDT Thursday.
Florence is moving toward the northwest near 6 miles per hour. The storm surge will continue into Friday, and catastrophic inland flooding is expected near and north of Florence's path. But authorities warned Florence has an enormous wind field that has been growing larger, raising the risk of the ocean surging on to land and making Florence extremely risky.
New Bern's WCTI-TV NewsChannel 12 posted on Facebook on Thursday night that employees had to abandon the studio for the "first time in history".
A spokesperson for the ABC affiliate said that roads around the building were flooding.
With South Carolina's beach towns more in the bull's-eye because of the shifting forecast, OH vacationers Chris and Nicole Roland put off their departure from North Myrtle Beach to get the maximum amount of time on the sand. Cherry pickers jutted into the darkening sky, and rusty utility pole drills stood at the ready.
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Additionally, Nintendo announced on Thursday " Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD " will be available for Switch on the eShop. Lastly, a new mini-game where you'll get to go fishing with Noctis.
Duke Energy, the nation's No. 2 power company, said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its four million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks.
Isaac Ginis, a hurricane expert at the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography, said that with rising temperatures, hurricanes are likely to become more intense, bring more rain and pose more risks to coastal areas from higher seas and bigger storm surges and waves.
Florence is moving slowly toward the northwest near 5 miles per hour, but a slow west-northwestward motion is expected to resume tonight or Friday.
"Life-threatening storm surge, heavy rainfall, and damaging wind will cover a large area regardless of exactly where the center of Florence moves", Hurricane Center forecasters said. That's enough to fill more than 15 million Olympic-size swimming pools. Early Thursday footage showed stormy seas and dark skies, with an American flag whipping in the wind.
"There is some damage ... but it is still standing strong. There is overwash but nothing we are not used to", she said.
Despite days of warnings to evacuate, some residents are staying put - even if they don't want to.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation tweeted a photo of highway NC 12, showing sand had covered one lane by 7:30 a.m Thursday. They also have three dogs and three parrots.
Media captionWhy do people ignore hurricane warnings? She said a hurricane has a way of bringing everyone to the same level. Other residents have told CNN they're not evacuating because emergency shelters won't accept pets. I'm glad we both came to the decision ourselves. "He is the only caregiver to me and my son", Browning said. We've assembled a list of options below and will update it as we find more. "It's a big one". It's a kind gesture but doesn't alleviate Browning's fear.
"I ask all Georgians to join me in praying for the safety of our people and all those in the path of Hurricane Florence", Deal said.