Liz Browning Fox was planning to ride out the storm nevertheless on the Outer Banks.
"It can save your life", he said.
In addition to flooding the coast with wind-driven storm surges of seawater as high as 13 feet (4 m), Florence could dump 15 to 25 inches (38 to 64 cm) of rain, with up to 35 inches (89 cm) in some spots, forecasters said.
With the storm churning across the Atlantic with 140 miles per hour winds, hurricane watches and warnings include the homes of more than 5.4 million people on the East Coast.
The National Weather Service issued an ominous warning.
The GOES-East weather satellite, which keeps a constant eye on the East Coast and the Atlantic, has captured some breathtaking images of Hurricane Florence, Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Helene approaching the Americas (in that order). The humidity and warm ocean water cause the storms to gain enough intensity to turn into hurricanes.
The storm is moving to west northwest at 15 miles per hour.More news: There could be a Pixel 3 XL with no notch, no chin
Tropical storm force winds are in the 39 miles per hour to 73 miles per hour range, says NOAA.
Approximately 2,000 South Carolina National Guard Soldiers and Airmen were activated and are now emplaced throughout the Palmetto state September 11, 2018 in preparation for landfall of Hurricane Florence. She grew up on the island chain, and says this will be only the second time she's evacuated.
The flooding of such hog lagoons and industrial sites could create a combination of waste that might wash into homes and threaten drinking water supplies.
The adults packed irreplaceable items such as photo albums and heirlooms while the children stuffed their favorite toys, blankets and books in their bags.
Michelle Stober loaded up valuables on Tuesday at her home on Wrightsville Beach to drive back to her primary residence in Cary, North Carolina. He's staying put - for now.
"I'm telling them to go inland, but I'm anxious about the rain and tornadoes too", Roberts said. "My home is all my wife and I have, materially speaking, a lifetime of stuff".
"This storm is going to knock out power days into weeks". We do have a pretty old facility here, so we're hoping it doesn't blow away in the storm. "The threat will be inland, so I'm afraid, based on my experience at FEMA, that the public probably not as prepared as everybody would like", said Craig Fugate, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"We are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst", Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said, noting that Florence could cause catastrophic flooding in his state.More news: Expert warnings for Hurricane Florence
Residents in hurricane evacuation zones had until noon Tuesday to evacuate.
All three states ordered mass evacuations along the coast.
Other schools in the area have yet to say if their games will occur as scheduled.
"Pets are not allowed inside Red Cross evacuation shelters", McMaster said.
The U.S. Coast Guard closed ports in Wilmington and Morehead City, North Carolina and Hampton Roads, Virginia to inbound vessels greater than 500 tons and was requiring vessels of that size to leave if they did not have permission to be in the ports.
The center of the massive storm is then forecast to meander Thursday, Friday and Saturday over a stretch of coastline saturated by rising seas, inundating several states and triggering life-threatening floods.
In Virginia, mandatory evacuations began Tuesday for about 245,000 residents in a portion of the Eastern Shore area.
"The atmosphere overall, before the potential landfall, certainly looks like we are going to have a very unsafe hurricane on our hands", he said.More news: College volleyball team in Mo. drops their Nike uniforms for gray shirts