While one man concluded: 'We are about to get pounded, but since we have absolutely no control over it, all you can do is laugh, and pray for the best'.
"Sea levels have risen in most places by about 1 foot over the past century".
Town Manager Mike Cramer said law enforcement officers will try to assess how many people are still on the island immediately south of Wilmington. On Wednesday, forecasters said it had shifted slightly south, and would rake the shoreline from Georgetown, South Carolina, to Wilmington, North Carolina. "Don't panic, people just need to prepare, just in case". 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 because of flooding. "Flooding is nearly guaranteed".
Meanwhile, a weakened jet stream means that Florence is more likely to linger in the region, raising the spectre of devastating flooding from as much as 75cm of rain.
Closing in with terrifying winds of 125 miles per hour and potentially catastrophic rain and storm surge, Florence is expected to blow ashore Saturday morning along the North Carolina-South Carolina line, the National Hurricane Center said.
"Once you leave, (it will be) hard to get back in to check on damage", he said.
"These enormous waves are produced by being trapped along with very strong winds moving in the same direction as the storm's motion".
"While some weakening is expected on Thursday, Florence is forecast to be an extremely risky major hurricane as it approaches the USA coast".
Around the same time Florence makes landfall, the steering winds pushing it forward will die down.
More than one million people are under mandatory evacuation orders in coastal areas of Virginia, North Caroline, and SC, and the governors of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and SC have issued state of emergency declarations in preparation of the storm.
The storm surge warning issued by the National Hurricane Center extends from the South Santee River in SC to Duck, on North Carolina's barrier islands known as the Outer Banks.
The trend is "exceptionally bad news", said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy, since it "smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge".
The coastal surge from Florence could leave the eastern tip of North Carolina under more than 9 feet (2.75 meters) of water in spots, projections showed.
As Florence closed in, some residents weighed whether to ride it out.
A hurricane warning - meaning hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours - is in effect for a long stretch of the coast, from the Santee River in SC to Duck, N.C., which is part of the Outer Banks.
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