Hurricane Florence, a dangerous Category 4 storm, is expected to bring catastrophic flooding to the Southeast and may dump as much as 40 inches of rain in North Carolina alone.
The 83 foot waves in the ocean as a result of Florence are not expected to reach the shoreline, the National Hurricane Center said.
"This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast, and that's saying a lot given the impacts we've seen from Hurricanes Diana, Hugo, Fran, Bonnie, Floyd, and Matthew," according to one National Weather Service meteorologist in Wilmington, North Carolina. "I can't emphasize enough the potential for unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge, and inland flooding with this storm."
With the storm not making landfall until at least Friday, residents in at least three states have more time to evacuate and prepare.
Here is the latest:
-- Overnight the storm shifted south, Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told "Good Morning America" Wednesday.
-- "The question is whether it will continue to do that today," Long said. "This is a highly dynamic situation that requires constant monitoring."
-- The coast of the Carolinas will begin to feel Florence's wrath Wednesday night or Thursday morning with gusty winds and increasing surf.
-- A chance for tornadoes begins Thursday as the storm meanders near or over the Carolinas.
-- The storm is expected to make landfall Friday or Saturday.
-- Regardless of where Florence makes landfall -- either North Carolina, South Carolina or Georgia -- the impact will be extreme along the Southeast coast.
-- The Carolinas should expect hurricane-force winds and heavy rainfall from Thursday through Saturday and possibly into Sunday.
Dangerous storm surge
Florence will also bring life-threatening storm surge wherever it makes landfall, warned Long, a North Carolina native who lived through Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
"This is going to be a big hit with storm surge at the coast," he said. "People do not live and survive to tell the tale about what their experience is like with storm surge. It's the most deadly part of the hurricane that comes in, it causes the most amount of destruction."
Trump says government is 'supplied and ready'
President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter that the federal government is "supplied and ready."
In a subsequent video message posted to Twitter, Trump implored residents to "get out of the storm's way."
"They say it's about as big as they've seen coming to this country -- and certainly to the East Coast -- as they've ever seen," he said. "We're fully prepared -- food, medical, everything you can imagine. We are ready but, despite that, bad things can happen when you're talking about a storm this size. It's called Mother Nature. You never know, but we know."
Residents and visitors flee the coast
As many as 1.7 million people have been ordered to evacuate in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.
"Today is your last day to get out of the areas that have been placed under evacuation orders," FEMA's Long said. "If you don't do it now, your time is going to be running out. And once the impacts of this storm start to come in, it's going to be very difficult for first responders to get to you."
Many people were already on the road Tuesday.
"If they say leave, leave," said Jennifer Forte, who was in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on Tuesday and headed toward Greenville. "And my job is closed. I work for the government, they’ve closed. The school’s closed until Friday, so there’s no reason to stay, really."
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper cautioned that high winds and floodwaters could knock power out "for several days if not longer."
"We’ll be asking people to prepare their emergency kit," he said. "Get food, water, if there are medications they may need. Pull together their important documents."