"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.
"If this thing comes inland and stops in eastern North Carolina like they forecast it, and we get two days of continuous rain, the rain will be our biggest damage", he said.
"Some say North Carolina is getting a break, but we are on the wrong side of this story", he said.
Winds were already picking up along the coastline early Thursday and some minor flooding was reported on the Outer Banks, barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, and in some seaside coastal towns.
Reports said coastal streets in North Carolina were flooded and winds bent trees to the ground as the storm, which has been downgraded to Category 1 and is weakened and slower moving than in recent days, prepared to make landfall at some point on Friday.
"Since the track is slower and the storm will reside in the area for a longer period of time rainfall amounts are expected to be extreme", Reid Hawkins, science officer for the National Weather Service office in Wilmington, said in a statement.
On top of the potentially destructive hurricane, forecasters also put parts of North Carolina on tornado watch.
More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm began buffeting the coast, and more than 12,000 were in shelters. By Friday morning Florence had already sapped power to almost 450,000 customers in the Carolinas, emergency officials said. An additional 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.
Rescue helicopters and trucks that can navigate floodwaters are also standing by.
Another video from NOAA's GOES-East weather satellite caught a different view of Hurricane Florence.
Officials say anyone who has not heeded mandatory evacuation orders is on his own. "So if you're on the beach the time to go is now".
Another Wilmington resident said she does not want to leave because she is afraid to see what she would be coming back to.
The police chief of Wrightsville Beach suggested that those who made a decision to stay give him their next-of-kin contact information.
President Donald Trump has said protecting lives is his "absolute highest priority" and that the White House is standing by to offer affected states whatever help they ask for.
"We'll handle it. We're ready. We're able", he said.
According to the NHC's forecast discussion at 12 p.m. on September 13: "The subtropical ridge to the northeast and east of Florence is now well-established between Bermuda and the US mid-Atlantic region and extends westward into Virginia and the central Appalachians".
Officials have warned that the life-threatening storm could come with maximum sustained wind speeds of 90mph and carries a risk of "catastrophic" flooding.
Hurricane Florence begins to batter U.S. east coast
We will have tropical storm force winds and rain and storm surge continues to be our main concern with extreme flooding. Browning's choice to stay in the hurricane warning zone wasn't easy, she said, but she "could not find anywhere to go".
The total bill for damage from Florence could eventually reach $US10 billion ($13.8b) to $US20 billion ($27.7b), said Chuck Watson, a disaster researcher at Enki Research in Savannah, Georgia.
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British woman Wendy Thorpe said she was on a boat with her daughter when the cliff collapsed and there was an "almighty crash". Video footage of the incident shows people running in panic as a large sheet of rock fell off the rock wall.
Hurricane Florence weakens, but still a strong flood threat
Duke Energy Corp expected between 25 percent and 75 percent of its 4 million customers would lose power in the Carolinas. More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm approached, and more than 12,000 were in shelters.
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Everything you need to know about Hurricane Florence
USA carriers were also waiting to see what impact Florence could have on airports near Washington and in northern Virginia. On Thursday morning, South 17th Street, usually teeming with commuter traffic by 6:30 a.m., was almost devoid of cars.