Faced with new forecasts that showed a more southerly threat, Georgia's governor joined his counterparts in Virginia and North and SC in declaring a state of emergency, and some residents who had thought they were safely out of range boarded up their homes.
Coastal streets in the Carolinas flowed with frothy ocean water, and at least 510,000 homes and businesses were without power, almost all of them in North Carolina, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the nation's electrical grid.
Coweta County residents can breathe a brief a small sigh of relief, at least on Thursday morning.
Cooper said Florence would "continue its violent grind across the state for days".
Forecasters said Florence's surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet (3.4 meters) of ocean water.
"It can not be emphasized enough that the most serious hazard associated with slow-moving Florence is extremely heavy rainfall, which will cause disastrous flooding that will be spreading inland through the weekend", the National Hurricane Center said in its 5 a.m. update.
Cooper said Florence was set to cover nearly all of the state in several feet of water.
"It truly is really about the whole size of this storm", National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said.
"The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety ahead of Hurricane Florence", said Deal in a news release. "Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you", Gerst writes. The water was clearly several feet high and had, according to Johnson, "busted open" several doors. (National Hurricane Center) A map shows projected rainfall brought by Hurricane Florence across the Carolinas and the Mid-Atlantic, from the National Hurricane Center on September 12, 2018.
In Wilmington, resident Michael Wilson fortified his home against the wind and rain, and anxious. He said all roads leading to his neighborhood were blocked by fallen trees. States of emergency have already been declared in both North and SC.
This same area will also likely experience a prolonged period of destructive winds resulting in power outages that could last for days or weeks.
Florence's top winds were clocked on Thursday evening at 90 miles per hour (150 km/h) as it churned in the Atlantic Ocean, down from a peak of 140 miles per hour (224 km/h) earlier this week when it was classified as a Category 4 storm.
Even more troubling is the amount of rain that could fall in southeastern North Carolina due to the storm slowing down or stalling out. Significant weakening is expected over the weekend.
Hurricane Florence made landfall Friday morning near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, but the storm's impact had already been felt for hours as the bands around the eye were wreaking havoc through the night.
Maysie Baumgardner, 7, and her family sheltered at the Hotel Ballast in downtown Wilmington as the hurricane filled the streets with floodwaters. "Everyone was sold out", she said.