"We are going to be very very very limited in terms of responding".
"This storm will bring destruction to North Carolina", Cooper said. "Let me be clear, you need to get yourself to a safe place now and stay there".
The Miami-based center says the center of the eye moved ashore with top sustained winds of 90 miles per hour (150 kph), making Florence a Category 1 hurricane in terms of wind intensity.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper urged residents to remain alert despite changing forecasts.
With forecasters anxious about a repeat of Hurricane Harvey, which inundated Houston with floodwater a year ago, NHC Director Ken Graham explained to the Associated Press: "It truly is really about the whole size of this storm". Another 4,300 people were in 61 shelters in SC, officials said. Florence is still a Category 2 hurricane.
The hurricane center also said the threat of tornadoes was increasing as the storm neared shore.
We hear from WCNC meteorologist Brad Panovich to get the latest on the storm and talk with reporters in Charlotte and on the coast about conditions.
Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump tweeted that he had just been briefed on the storm and "FEMA, First Responders and Law Enforcement are supplied and ready".
By midday, Spanish moss blew sideways in the trees as the winds increased in Wilmington.
Wilmington resident Julie Terrell was plenty concerned after walking to breakfast past a row of shops fortified with boards, sandbags and hurricane shutters.
Her friend Kate is refusing to evacuate as well because of "the idea of having to leave with my two cats and go somewhere for a week or more". "Because it's Mother Nature".
Incredible amounts of water will fall from the sky over the next several days in the Carolinas. That's enough water to fill the Empire State Building almost 40,000 times.
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.
"It doesn't matter how much money you have or how many generators you have if you can't get gas", she said.
At the nearby Arthur Christian Church, Booker reports, about 20 people were praying together as the storm barreled toward the Carolinas.
Hurricanes and typhoons not only bring severe coastal flooding via storm surge-they create awful inland flooding as well.
The two major electric utilities covering the state -Duke Energy and Dominion- and a consortium of electric cooperatives reported more than 80,000 customers without power as of early Thursday evening.
Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm's aftermath, it said.
Inland flooding near New Bern, North Carolina caused by Hurricane Florence's storm surge as predicted by the ADCIRC computer model.
Storm surge is caused in part by the brunt of hurricane force winds.
Surges up to 4 meters could inundate Cape Fear, North Carolina to Cape Lookout, North Carolina, with smaller surges ranging from half a meter to 3 meters in coastal areas from Edisto Beach, South Carolina to coastal areas extending north into North Carolina.