The Center also warned that "Florence is expected to be an extremely risky major hurricane through Thursday". Forecasters said it now has maximum sustained winds of about 140 miles per hour and even stronger gusts, in the NHC's latest update.
The NHC warned they're likely to cause "life-threatening surf and rip current conditions".
Hurricane Florence - which formed as a tropical depression in the Atlantic Ocean on August 31 - is now a Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson scale, which measures hurricane strength from 1 to 5. And with little wind shear to pull the storm apart, Florence's hurricane-strength winds were expanding.
Some strengthening is expected during the next 36 hours, and Florence is expected to be an extremely unsafe major hurricane through Thursday. The latest Category 4 to hit the Carolinas was Hurricane Hazel in 1954.
A hurricane watch has been issued for the East Coast from Edisto Beach, S.C., to the North Carolina-Virginia border, including the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds.
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National Hurricane Center says swells generated by Florence are affecting Bermuda and portions of the U.S. East Coast. Impacts of the hurricane can also extend far from the center of the storm. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster has given the entire coastline until Tuesday noon to leave.
In the next 36 hours, some strengthening is expected.
Authorities in coastal towns have told residents to pick up sandbags and in North Carolina they are already preparing bulldozers and chain saws in case they are needed in any future clean-up and rescue operations.
Preparations for Florence are intensifying up and down the densely populated coast. With winds of up to 150mph forecast, Florence will likely fell tree limbs and trigger power outages. Helene is a Category 2 hurricane that's blowing winds between 96-110 miles per hour.
Florence will bring a perilous risk of flooding to a broad area, and its wind and rains will also bring downed trees and other destruction to areas in its path, the hurricane center said.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said his state was "in the bullseye" of the storm and urged people to "get ready now".
"The combination of storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline". Forecasts call for 25-38 cm of rain in the hardest-hit areas, possibly more if the storm stalls over land, as expected.