By 1:50 p.m. (1750 GMT) the winds had dropped to 75 miles per hour (120 kph) and the centre was moving west at a 6 miles per hour (10 kph), the NHC said, and parts of North and SC would get as much as 40 inches of rain (1 metre).
Updated NHC forecasts showed the storm lingering near the coast, bringing days of heavy rains that could bring intense inland flooding from SC, where some areas could see as much as one metre of rain, to Virginia.
Liberty Mutual Insurance and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company write the most commercial property insurance coverage in North and SC, according to a report on Wednesday by Moody's, citing data from SNL Financial.
President Donald Trump urged residents to heed orders to evacuate and said the federal government was "ready for the big one that is coming". Don't bet your life on riding out a monster'.
As of 11am local time, Florence was centred about 145 miles south east of Wilmington and its forward movement slowed to 10mph.
As of Tuesday, more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out.
"Forecasts generally project the storm to make landfall between northern SC and North Carolina's Outer Banks as a strong Category 3 on Thursday, although shifts in the track are possible and storm impacts will expand great distances beyond where landfall occurs". At 8 a.m. on Wednesday the storm was located about 855 km southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina. The storm's forecast has shifted southward in the last 24 hours.
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Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm's aftermath, it said.
A look back at Hurricane Florence along the East Coast on Thursday.
"I'm not going to put our personnel in harm's way, especially for people that we've already told to evacuate", Wrightsville Beach police chief Dan House said.
To hasten evacuations from coastal SC, officials switched traffic patterns so that all major roads led away from shore.
Water kills more people in hurricanes than wind, and the rain and storm surge will make Florence extremely risky.
Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long said storm surge warnings have not changed despite the weakening intensity of the winds.
A buoy off the North Carolina coast recorded waves almost 30ft high as Florence churned toward shore.
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Some residents were resisting governors' calls to flee the region but remained fearful about the threats posed by the Florence.
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Homeless after losing her job three months ago, 25-year-old Brittany Jones went to a storm shelter at a high school near Raleigh.
Florence is predicted to make an overnight landfall Friday west of Wilmington, NC.
"We hope to have something left when we get home", she said. "If we try to leave, we'll just get stuck in the rain". North Carolina corrections officials said more than 3,000 people were relocated from adult prisons and juvenile centers in the path of Florence, and more than 300 county prisoners were transferred to state facilities.
Florence could strengthen some over open water and then weaken as it nears land, but the difference won't make it any less unsafe, forecaster Stacy Stewart wrote in a National Hurricane Center discussion.
TROPICS: Florence expected to impact the Carolinas by end of week
The governor of Maryland has declared a state of emergency in preparation for significant flooding from Hurricane Florence . Many newcomers have moved to the coast in the almost 19 years since the last strong hurricane - Floyd - threatened the area.