"We're a little anxious about the storm surge so we came down to see what the river is doing now", said Linda Smith, 67, a retired nonprofit director.
A crawling pace can be even more punishing than a fast one, because it lets the storm stall in one area as it dumps more and more heavy rain.
The waves will meet resistance as Florence approaches landfall, but storm surges up to 13 feet are expected in some areas of North Carolina, according to the weather service.
The result could be what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago: catastrophic inland flooding that could swamp homes, businesses, farms and industrial sites.
On Thursday morning, a tweet from South Carolina's Emergency Management Division brought this perspective on Florence's sheer size: It's "larger than SC and North Carolina combined".
"The longer it stays, the more wind, the more rain". Airlines canceled almost 1,000 flights and counting.
Delta Air Lines added 1,200 seats as of Wednesday evening via extra flights and upsized aircraft in the storm's path to get people out of the area before Florence hits.
The hurricane center, in its 2 a.m. Thursday update, said Florence was 235 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, N.C., moving northwest at 17 mph. The typhoon is expected to make landfall in the Philippines Saturday before barreling toward China, Vietnam and Laos. BBC News reports that over 10 million people are under a storm watch as the East Coast braces itself for this hot, wet natural disaster.
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President Donald Trump both touted the government's readiness and urged people to get out of the way.
NOAA's National Hurricane Center (NHC) said "microwave overpass indicated that the convection over the southern and southeastern portions of the storm is still disrupted, and that the eyewall was open to the southeast". Hurricane Helene and Subtropical Storm Joyce were off in the Atlantic, posing no threat. A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Edisto Beach, South Carolina to South Santee River, South Carolina.
With South Carolina's beach towns more in the bull's-eye because of the shifting forecast, OH vacationers Chris and Nicole Roland put off their departure from North Myrtle Beach to get the maximum amount of time on the sand.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for north of Duck, NC, to Cape Charles Light, VA, and for Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort.
Coastal areas will be bombarded with torrential rain, high winds, coastal erosion and storm surge. Storm surges can leave courses awash in saltwater, killing grass or covering courses with silt.
Subtropical storm Joyce formed in the Atlantic on Wednesday but is not expected to threaten land. The storm caused an estimated $125 billion of damage along the Gulf Coast. The effects of torrential rain are devastating, costly, and deadly, especially in urban areas where concrete comprises the basis of most structures and makes it incredibly hard for water to drain. "There's not many drawbacks to living at the beach, but that's one of them". After criticism for its response in Puerto Rico to last year's Hurricane Maria, which officials there said was responsible for 3,000 deaths, Trump has vowed a vigorous response to Florence and defended his handling of Maria.
Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said Florence eventually could strike as a Category 1 with winds less than 100 miles per hour (160 kph), but that's still enough to cause at least $1 billion in damage.
The U.S. Coast Guard said it closed the ports of Wilmington and Moorehead City in North Carolina and restricted port operations in Charleston, South Carolina.