Randall Hill / Reuters Lisa Evers (Foreground) and her daughter Amanda Hamilton, both of Oak Island, decorate their storm shutters before evacuating ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Oak Island, North Carolina, U.S. September 12, 2018.
Forecasters say wind speeds have dropped from a high of 140 miles per hour (225 kph) to 110 miles per hour (175 kph), reducing it to a Category 2 storm.
The latest rainfall projections warn of 20-40 inches of rain from coastal North Carolina into northeastern SC - amounts that could bring "catastrophic flash flooding", the hurricane center said. Officials didn't reveal exactly which institutions would be evacuated due to security concerns, but said evacuated prisoners would get a free phone call to notify loved ones.
It is approximately 435 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, as of 2 p.m. ET Wednesday, according to the NHC.
NOAA also released another video shot from Kermit, giving a more prolonged look at the eye of the storm.
The US president said he had spoken to governors of threatened states, adding that the "federal government stands by, ready to assist 24/7".
An estimated 10 million people live in areas expected to be placed under a hurricane or storm advisory, according to the US Weather Prediction Center.
'I can't emphasise enough the potential for unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge and inland flooding with this storm'.
Florence will bring large rainfall totals through Saturday in North Carolina, north SC and Virginia, causing catastrophic flash flooding.
Normally when we talk about the potential for hurricane damage, we talk about the impact of storm surges and high winds - both of which are, to be sure, incredibly risky in their own right. The storm is moving northwest at 17 miles per hour (27 kph).
"I've been through hurricanes before but never with kids", she said. "He lives in North Carolina".
Appeals to stay safe came from as far away as space as German astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeted pictures of the monster storm taken from the International Space Station along with the warning, "Watch out, America!"
"They told me to bring a pillow and blanket", Whisler said.
North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said crops such as tobacco and corn are in midharvest while sweet potatoes, peanuts, soybeans and cotton are still in the field.
Meanwhile, the military is evacuating several of bases across the region, including the Marine Corps' Parris Island in SC and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, the Army's Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, and the Air Force's Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia.
It was a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm but was expected to keep drawing energy from the warm water and intensify to near Category 5, which means winds of 253 kph or higher.