The NHC said Florence is expected to be an "extremely unsafe major hurricane" when it makes landfall in the Carolinas late Thursday or early Friday, bringing life-threatening storm surge to coastal areas.
As it stands, Florence is now a Category two hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 177 km/h.
The National Hurricane Center's projected track has Florence hovering off the southern North Carolina coast from Thursday night until landfall on Saturday morning.
A view of Hurricane Florence from the International Space Station. "This will allow us to take care of our community and also be prepared should the need arise to assist others", Walker said. Some 3,000 people died in the aftermath of that storm.
People fleeing coastal North and SC clogged highways early Wednesday as Florence bore down on the coast for a direct hit in a low-lying region dense with beachfront vacation homes.
Florence is expected to produce heavy and excessive rainfall, with coastal North Carolina expected to see 20-30 inches and in some isolated places, up to 40 inches.
"Hugo was a direct hit", he said.
The last time the U.S. capital declared a state of emergency was in January 2016 when a winter storm dubbed "Snowzilla" blanketed the capital region in knee-deep snow.
Some 7,000 guard members are ready to mobilize in North Carolina, while 1,100 will be activated in SC. The worst of the storm's effects will be felt over the weekend as Florence moves on through.
Areas along the coast from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, NC, including the Neuse, Pamlico, Pungo and Bay rivers may experience storm surges from 9 to 13 feet. "We're kind of at the mercy of the storm".
She added: "The problem is, I can't tell you the exact pin point of landfall and it could be a long duration event".
Lauren Hancock, a resident of Wrightsville Beach in the state's evacuation zone, said: "I'm looking across the street at a gas station, and it's a madhouse".
Flight Director Paul Flaherty is preparing to fly into Hurricane Florence for a fourth time, and said he hopes to bring back good news, but so far, there's been no signs of that from the sky.
Here are some of the best images of Hurricane Florence by Gerst and Ricky Arnold, a fellow NASA astronaut who's also living on board the ISS.
Florence will bring large rainfall totals through Saturday in North Carolina, north SC and Virginia, causing catastrophic flash flooding.
Some 7,000 guard members are ready to mobilize in North Carolina, while 1,100 will be activated in SC.