Hurricane-force winds extend up to 80 miles from the centre, and tropical storm effects reach 195 miles, The Independent reported.now less than 100 miles from Wilmington, North Carolina, the "meandering" Florence has been described as a "horrific nightmare storm" because meteorologists can not pinpoint where it will strike.
More than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing motel at the height of the storm, and many more who defied evacuation orders were hoping to be rescued. "This is a powerful storm that can kill". The father of the child was transported to a nearby hospital with injuries.
Rescue helicopters and trucks that can navigate floodwaters are also standing by.
Forecasters warned that drenching rains of 1 to 3½ feet (30 centimeters to 1 meter) as the hurricane-turned-tropical storm crawls westward across North and SC could trigger epic flooding well inland over the next few days.
"This rainfall will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding", the hurricane center said.
As of late Thursday, the hurricane center said Florence was 95 kilometers southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, with top sustained winds of 150 kilometers per hour (90 mph).
"This is a very unsafe storm", said FEMA's Long, urging people still in evacuation zones to heed orders to flee to safer ground. The huge storm weakened to a Category 2 hurricane overnight, but forecasters warned that it still packed a risky punch, 110 mile-an-hour (175 kph) winds and torrential rains.
"Make no mistake - whether the eye of the storm makes landfall along our shores or farther south, we're on the wrong side of it", Cooper said. "Surviving this storm will be a test of endurance, teamwork, common sense and patience". The Weather Channel estimated that up to three million customers might lose power in the Carolinas due to Florence. Several places already had more than 16 inches (40 centimeters) of rain, and Oriental, North Carolina got more than 20 inches (50 centimeters) in just a few hours.
As of Thursday morning, two of the 11 nuclear power plants in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Virginia were operating at slightly reduced levels, according to EIA.
Prisoners were affected, too. The homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions.
Ken Graham, director of the hurricane center, said on Facebook the storm surges could push in as far as 3 kilometers (2 miles).
The barrier island of Emerald Isle is under water, with ocean waves rolling in over a six-foot storm surge and crashing into homes.
He said hurricane-force winds extend outward 80 miles from the center of the storm and tropical storm-force winds extend almost 200 miles out.
Parts of the Mid-Atlantic states can also expect heavy rains from what is left of Florence well into next week.
Florence is forecast to significantly weaken as it crawls across central South Carolina Saturday. He said parts of North Carolina had seen storm surges - the bulge of seawater pushed ashore by the hurricane - as high as 10 feet.
"Just because the wind speed came down, the intensity of this storm came down. please do not let your guard down", said Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), earlier on Thursday.
Meanwhile, lane reversals on USA 501 in the Grand Strand ended at noon Thursday and reversals on I-26 ended Thursday night, allowing state police and transportation workers to get to safety before the storm hits.