The Category 4 storm was expected to start hitting the North and SC coasts sometime Thursday or Friday, and should make landfall near Wilmington, N.C., early Saturday morning, according to the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center.
"In 12 or 18 hours, they may be saying different things all over again", he said.
Hurricane Florence, on its way across the Atlantic Ocean toward North Carolina, dominates photos and video from the International Space Station, where astronauts are using wide-angle lenses because of how far the storm extends. But authorities warned it will still be an extremely risky hurricane. Its maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly to 110 miles per hour.
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.More news: Cardinal accused of covering up sex abuse to meet with pope
Mayor Joe Benson said the storm will batter the oceanside town through two high tide periods.
As Florence closed in for the worst strike on the area in decades, President Donald Trump and state and local officials urged residents in the path of the storm to evacuate before it is too late.
She added residents and visitors should "take this storm seriously".
One grocery store in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, sported a plea for divine intervention - with forecasters warning that the threat of devastation remains high despite the downgrade.
"I ask all Georgians to join me in praying for the safety of our people and all those in the path of Hurricane Florence", Deal said. "Now it might be time for the exam", he said.More news: Jerome Boateng: 'I turned down Manchester United move'
On its current track, Florence is expected to hit the Carolinas and Virginia the hardest, the NHC said. Officials didn't reveal exactly which institutions would be evacuated due to security concerns, but said evacuated prisoners would get a free phone call to notify loved ones.
Shepard Smith and Flaherty said reports showed storm surge from the system is likely to be felt dozens of miles inland, including along the Neuse River Basin - which stretches inward from New Bern toward Rocky Mount and Nashville, N.C.
"It's been really nice", Nicole Roland said.
Gradual weakening is forecast once Isaac moves through the eastern Caribbean and approaches the Gulf of Mexico. The Triad has around a 50% chance of having sustained Tropical Storm force winds.More news: Apple launches the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max