But some models indicated that the powerful storm might take a southern track before hitting land and remain offshore from Thursday through the weekend with the potential of dumping 6 inches of rain, accompanied by 30-mph winds, on northeast Georgia, according to Sid King, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.
SC and North Carolina are evacuating people living in vulnerable areas along the coast.
The National Hurricane Center said Wednesday the massive waves were produced by being trapped along with very strong winds moving in the same direction of the storm's motion.
The category three storm is ploughing towards the east coast and is due to make landfall in SC early on Friday morning.
Florence will bring large rainfall totals through Saturday in North Carolina, north SC and Virginia, causing catastrophic flash flooding.
Cooper said Florence would "continue its violent grind across the state for days".
Three college football games with Top 25 teams have been called off: East Carolina at No. 11 Virginia Tech, No. 15 West Virginia at NC State and No. 18 Central Florida at North Carolina. Despite its unpredictable path, it was forecast to make landfall near Cape Fear, North Carolina, at midday on Friday.
Forecasters said parts of North Carolina could get 20 inches of rain, if not more, with as much as 10 inches elsewhere in the state and in Virginia, parts of Maryland and Washington, D.C. It is expected to move across parts of southeastern North Carolina and eastern SC on Friday and Saturday, then head north over the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC said.
Michael Kennedy, an engineer at Boeing, said he planned to leave for his parents' home in Atlanta, Georgia. "Everyone was sold out", she said.
"They told me to bring a pillow and blanket", Whisler said.
Charleston, resident William Belli said he would not be among those joining the exodus. Walking his dog along empty streets, Belli said he's well stocked with food and water.
Another commenter said: 'That hurricane better be taking me to dinner first'.
At this height of the Atlantic hurricane season, Florence was being trailed on east-to-west paths by two other storms, Hurricane Helene and Tropical Storm Isaac, but neither packs the deadly punch of Florence.
Decreasing modestly in strength but expanding in size, Category 3 Hurricane Florence is less than 48 hours away from making landfall on the Southeast American coast with catastrophic impacts, from damaging winds to flash flooding to widespread power outages.