"I'm not going to put our personnel in harm's way, especially for people that we've already told to evacuate", Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House said.
Landfall is expected late Thursday or early Friday, and the National Hurricane Center fears the storm "will slow considerably or stall, leading to a prolonged and exceptionally heavy and risky rainfall event Friday-Sunday".
After all that, what is left of Florence will turn north towards Rochester.
"This rainfall will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding", the hurricane center said.
Hurricane Florence is a real, ongoing threat.
More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm approached, and more than 12,000 were in shelters.
"This is a life-threatening situation".
Rescue workers in North Carolina meanwhile were scrambling to save people stranded in their homes. Robert Faircloth has lived in Wilmington, North Carolina, for 62 years.
The Miami-based center had said earlier Friday Florence's arrival would come with "catastrophic" fresh water flooding over portions of the Carolinas.
The National Hurricane Center states that these storm surges are highly likely along portions of the coastlines of North Carolina and SC.
"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", New Bern city officials said on Twitter.
The National Hurricane Center says the Neuse River near the city is recording more than 10 feet (3.05 meters) of inundation.
Storm surge is deadly.
"Little change in strength is expected before the eye of Florence reaches the coast, with slow weakening expected after the center moves inland or meanders near the coast", the advisory said.
"The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast in areas of onshore winds, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves".
Some 11,000 power outages have been reported in North Carolina. Emerald Isle is about 84 miles (135 kilometers) north of Wilmington. Its center was moving west at only 6 mph (9 km/h) and about 50 miles south of Morehead City at around 1 a.m. (0500 GMT Friday).
Forecasters say the combination of a life-threatening storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.
Just as Hurricane Florence closes in on the Southeast, the area covered by hurricane-force winds has doubled - meaning far more people will get blasted with winds 74 miles per hour or greater. The Philippines placed the main Luzon island under storm alert and said as many as 824,000 Filipinos may have to be evacuated before the storm hits land on Saturday morning.
Gov. Roy Cooper requested additional federal disaster assistance in anticipation of what his office called "historic major damage" across the state.
This image of Hurricane Florence was captured by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, now living and working onboard the International Space Station. Its maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly to 110 miles per hour (175 kph).
Experts are warning people that the most serious threat posed by Florence might just be the massive amount of water it is expected to leave in its wake, from the storm surge that could exceed 13 feet in some areas to a deluge of rainfall that may hit 40 inches in certain pockets.