Now, many more people and houses are set to endure hurricane-force winds, which extend 80 miles out from Florence's center.
"Two years ago, we made hot dogs and sold PBR out of Bar Normandy", resident Chaz Green said at One Broad, a local restaurant that is now the go-to venue for hurricane parties.
Meanwhile, lane reversals on US 501 ended at noon and reversals on I-26 end Thursday night, allowing state police and transportation workers to get to a safe location before the storm hits.
Even with some weakening that is predicted just before it makes landfall, the storm "is expected to remain a risky major hurricane as it approaches the coastline", the hurricane center said.
The National Hurricane Center warned the threat of tornadoes was increasing as Florence neared shore and South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said the heavy rains could trigger landslides in the western part of his state.
Just inland in North Carolina, the hurricane is pushing water up the sounds and rivers, Joel Cline, a tropical storm program coordinator with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told Fox News. A tropical storm warning covers the area from north of Duck to the Virgina Tidewater area.
Hurricane conditions are likely to hit the area around North Carolina's southern coast on Thursday night and Friday, but tropical storm conditions will arrive on earlier Thursday, according to the hurricane center.
The storm will slow down because of pushback from a trough - an extended area of low atmospheric pressure - now over Texas, Stacy Stewart, an NHC senior hurricane specialist, said in the update.
He said hurricane-force winds extend outward 130 km from the center of the storm and tropical storm-force winds extend almost 322km out.
It was forecast to make landfall mid-day Friday near Cape Fear, North Carolina, bringing up to 40 inches (1 meter) of rain, and storm surges as high as 13 feet (4 meters), the NHC said. "Your time is running out".
In Charleston, the city government said that after giving out 53,000 sandbags, "there is no longer any sand available at any city of Charleston location". "This is a life-and-death situation".
About 10 million people live in the path of the slow-moving storm and more than 1 million had been ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia, jamming westbound roads and highways for miles. Governors of those states have already declared states of emergency, as have the governors of Virginia and Maryland.
"We live in a mobile home so we were just like 'No way, '" she said. More to come on this part of the forecast. It is expected to turn away from the U.S. On Wednesday, officials said some of those shelters were at capacity, but in a statement early Thursday, county officials said they were "able to mobilize additional resources to accommodate the need for shelter space". He also warned residents to be prepared to be without electricity "for a long time" in the storm's aftermath.
Myrtle Beach International Airport in SC has also suspended commercial operations, and urges passengers to check with their airlines - not the airport - about upcoming itineraries.
Janey Camp, a research associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Vanderbilt University, said the "biggest concern" for those not along the coast "is the deluge of precipitation that comes with" hurricanes.
As Hurricane Florence enters warmer coastal waters, it's possible that it could gain strength (warm water is the fuel of hurricanes), but it's still not clear whether it will push up to a Category 3 storm.
"We hope to have something left when we get home", she said.