While there remains some uncertainty around Hurricane Florence's exact path, one thing does seem certain: it will dump potentially historic rainfall amounts.
The Marine Corps, with its large concentration of people in North Carolina, could be especially affected.
For many people, the challenge could be finding a safe refuge: If Florence slows to a crawl, it could bring torrential rains all the way into the Appalachian mountains and as far away as West Virginia, causing flash floods, mudslides and other risky conditions in places that have already experienced lots of rain recently.
On the right side of this view is Helene, a Category 2 hurricane that will likely peter out in the Atlantic without making landfall, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center (NHC), a division of NOAA.
Ever since the federal government's inadequate preparation and relief efforts during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 under former president George W Bush, storm preparedness has become an increasingly scrutinized measure of an administration's efficiency.
Byard, the FEMA official, said "this storm is not going to be a glancing blow". The Virginia National Guard is planning to initially bring up to 1,500 soldiers and airmen to offer help in the state's response operations.
Henry McMaster lifted the mandatory evacuation for Hurricane Florence in Beaufort, Jasper and Colleton counties Wednesday, Beaufort County schools will remain closed Wednesday.
"Florence is expected to slow down considerably by late Thursday into Friday, and move through early Saturday", the NHC said on Wednesday.
Business owners prepare for Hurricane Florence in Wrightsville Beach, N.C.
As of the 5am update from the National Hurricane Center, Florence is still a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 140 miles per hour and gusts 160-170 miles per hour. Hurricane force winds extend 40 miles from Florence's eye and tropical storm force winds extend 150 miles.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency warned that storm surge watches and warnings are in effect for the entire North Carolina coast and parts of SC. The storm will most likely strike the coast of North Carolina or SC by late Thursday.
Hurricane Florence appears ready to churn through the Carolinas, bringing along massive winds, rainfall and flooding.
As Florence closes in on the Carolinas, residents from Charleston to North Myrtle Beach evacuated their homes today, moving further inland, after the governor directed citizens evacuate coastal areas to get out of harm's way and potential storm surges.
"Winds have decreased a little bit this morning down to 130mph but that's only because it's undergone what's called an eyewall replacement cycle that temporarily weakens the storm". Forecasters also were tracking two other disturbances. So on the right-hand side of the storm, you get the addition of the forward speed plus the winds - and that's literally pushing the water ahead of it.
"This storm is going to knock out power days into weeks".
Florence has forced people to cut their holidays short along the coast, while the storm's projected path includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous pig farms that store animal waste in huge lagoons. "What is flooding going to do to our home, our city?"
An evacuation order from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam applies to about 245,000 people, including parts of the Hampton Roads area and Eastern Shore.