Thus, Florence may even strike as a Category 1 Hurricane.
The monster storm felled trees all around Wilmington, causing many more close calls and damaging homes and cars.
The Wilmington Police Department said that a mother and infant were killed when a tree fell on their house on Friday. Restoring power to all customers could take weeks, it said.
In New Bern, North Carolina, where the Neuse and Trent rivers intersect, around 200 people were rescued after being stranded in their homes overnight, according to Mayor Dana Outlaw.
As the storm moves inland, forecasters warned, the surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet of rain, touching off severe flooding. In a statement, his office said the orders were lifted at 10:45 a.m. after the National Hurricane Center lifted the tropical storm warning for that part of the state. The large and unsafe storm is expected to keep battering parts of North and SC on Friday.
The NHC said hurricane-force winds extended outward 35 miles (55 kms) from the center of the storm and tropical storm-force winds extended almost 170 miles (280 kms) out.
After the storm makes landfall, it will slow down and begin to crawl to the west and southwest along the coast into SC on Saturday.
The center said the water level could hit from 7 to 10 feet from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, North Carolina, and from 6 to 9 feet from Cape Lookout to Ocracoke Inlet.
In the latest advisory the National Hurricane Center said: "The centre of Florence will approach the coasts of North and SC later tonight, then move near or over the coast of southern North Carolina and northeastern SC in the hurricane warning area on Friday".
More than a million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia have been told to leave their homes. The information line is staffed around the clock to connect North Carolinians to storm resources.
Days of intense rainfall could dump more than three feet of rain on the Carolinas, as the storm stalls when it reaches the coast.
The city woke Friday to the sound of exploding electrical transformers with strong gusts throwing street signs and other debris as well as water in all directions.
"We're helping out a lot of people today", says Craven County Emergency Services spokesperson Amber Parker.
A buoy off the North Carolina coast recorded waves almost 30 feet (9 meters) high as Florence churned toward shore. But the hurricane had slowed to a crawl as it traced the North Carolina-South Carolina shoreline, drenching coastal communities for hours on end.
Emergency preparations included activating more than 2,700 National Guard troops, stockpiling food, setting up shelters, switching traffic patterns so major roads led away from shore, and securing 16 nuclear power reactors in the Carolinas and Virginia.
Though Hurricane Florence has been downgraded to a category 2 storm over the last 24 hours, it's still predicted to cause significant damage, particularly in relation to flooding along the coast and further inland.
At 5 p.m., Florence was centered about 50 miles west-southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 25 miles northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
She said the shop, with an electric generator, was safer than their nearby home.