The storm is expected to slowly move inland, battering much of the USA coast for days.
The National Hurricane Center's latest predictions Wednesday had Florence hovering off Southeast shores for more than two days before making landfall near the North Carolina/South Carolina border, perhaps not until Saturday.
"As soon as we get any type of notice", he said, "we start contacting families".
The National Hurricane Center is calling for 10 to 20 inches of rain and 30 inches in isolated spots.
Sentara Healthcare Residents from Sentara's Health Center in Currituck, North Carolina, arrive by bus at a larger Sentara facility in Portsmouth, Virginia, away from the storm's path.More news: Everything Apple didn’t announce at its event: Macs, iPads, and more
From the International Space Station, Alexander Gerst warns the East Coast to get ready for Hurricane Florence in this photo posted to Twitter on September 12, 2018: "This is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you".
See the progress of Hurricane Florence on a radar map from WAVY in Norfolk, Virginia. But the storm, almost 300 miles wide, is expected to pick up strength over the warm waters of the Atlantic before making landfall.
"That means the more trees that could fall, the more power outages", National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said.
Forecasts showed the storm lingering near the coast of the Carolinas, carrying days of heavy rains that could bring intense inland flooding from SC to Virginia.More news: RNC Minerals gold strike in Western Australia sends stock soaring
"We do not want to risk one SC life in this hurricane", the governor told reporters.
Another view from astronaut Alexander Gerst of the eye of Hurricane Florence, posted to Twitter on September 12, 2018. We want to make sure everybody knows that we are out. "You will have a compounding effect of storm surge and the waves that will probably be quite devastating to the coastal communities", Ginis said.
Officials in New Hanover County, which includes Wilmington, have stockpiled enough food and water for 60,000 people for four days, along with more than 28,000 tarps. Shelters in the city were filling and some people were being bused inland to Raleigh, even though some residents there were told they might have to evacuate.
"The farther north and west you are, the less risk you have", WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said.More news: Packers taking it day by day with Aaron Rodgers