The latest tracking report from the National Hurricane Center released at 5 a.m. showed the eye of Florence about 200 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina.
The center of Florence, a Category 2 hurricane, will approach the coasts of North and SC on Thursday, the NHC said, adding that it was expected to weaken after it moved inland.
While Florence is no longer considered a major hurricane, its reach has expanded, threatening residents from Georgia to Virginia.
The US Coast Guard said it closed the ports of Wilmington and Moorehead City in North Carolina and restricted port operations in Charleston, South Carolina.
"This is a very unsafe hurricane", Mr McMaster said, adding that the evacuation order for coastal counties was "mandatory, not voluntary".
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No storm watches or warnings are in effect for Georgia.
Flaherty said there is a small piece of good news, in that the "flow" in the southeastern quadrant of the storm has been reduced slightly.
Florence is now been downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane, is expected to make landfall in the US, Thursday as an "extremely dangerous" hurricane according to the National Hurricane Center.
With South Carolina's beach towns more in the bull's-eye because of the shifting forecast, OH vacationers Chris and Nicole Roland put off their departure from North Myrtle Beach to get the maximum amount of time on the sand.
Duke Energy, the nation's No. 2 power company, said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks.
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Governors of those states have already declared states of emergency, as have the governors of Virginia and Maryland. The hurricane centre said Florence will approach the coast Friday and linger for a while before rolling ashore.
Myrtle Beach's Ocean Boulevard was practically empty at midday on Wednesday, September 12, as the SC town prepared for the arrival of Hurricane Florence.
"The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety", Deal said.
Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Tuesday: "While we are monitoring potential impacts of Hurricane Florence on the District, we remain committed to keeping our residents safe, prepared, and informed".
Though Florence won't be making landfall until Friday, tropical-storm-force winds - 39 to 73 miles per hour (63 to 117 km/h) - will begin whipping through coastal regions as early as tomorrow, making it exceptionally unsafe to be outside, Graham said.
Saturday's scheduled game between SC and Marshall has been canceled.
More than 1.5 million people have been ordered to evacuate coastal areas ahead of the storm because of both destructive winds and a storm surge that could place normally dry land under at least 10 feet of water.
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Hurricane Florence's wrath begins today.