This enhanced satellite image shows Hurricane Florence off the eastern coast of the United States on Wednesday. Heavy rains were forecast to extend into the Appalachians, affecting parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.
Hurricane-force winds will bring down trees and damage homes and businesses.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned that "disaster is at the doorstep", and "tens of thousands" of buildings may be flooded.
A life-threatening storm surge is now highly likely along portions of the coastlines of SC and North Carolina, and a Storm Surge Warning is in effect for a portion of this area.
He said: "We are ready but this is going to be one of the biggest ones to ever hit our country".
Another commenter said: 'That hurricane better be taking me to dinner first'.
Florence could strengthen some over open water and then weaken as it nears land, but the difference won't make it any less risky, forecaster Stacy Stewart wrote in a National Hurricane Center discussion.
Florence is forecast to dump up to three feet (almost a meter) of rain in some areas after it makes landfall in North and SC.
The National Hurricane Center's projected track had Florence hovering off the southern North Carolina coast starting Thursday night before finally blowing ashore. "Now it might be time for the exam", Baxley said late in the morning.
The explanation, experts said, is relatively simple: More and more people are choosing to live near the coast, and housing and building costs in those locations are more expensive than they used to be.
The photos in Gerst's post capture Florence mid-churn, winds up to 130 miles per hour whipping around the storm's eye.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam joined the chorus of warnings, and issued an evacuation order for about a quarter million residents in flood-prone coastal areas, beginning Tuesday morning.
More than 1.5 million people have been ordered to evacuate coastal areas ahead of the storm because of both destructive winds and a storm surge that could place normally dry land under at least 10 feet of water.
DOT crews and the State Highway Patrol were quickly clearing accidents, stranded drivers and abandoned vehicles off major highways near the coast so they don't hinder the evacuation effort.
Many North Carolina residents say, they don't want to leave.
Hurricane Florence seen from the International Space Station.
"We're just trying to plan for the future here, not having a house for an extended period of time", David Garrigus said.