Massive waves of up to 83 feet were measured inside the storm on Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center's Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch said, citing satellite altimeter data.
"It will be a potentially life-changing event for some of our customers", he said.
On the forecast track, the center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas today, and approach the coast of North Carolina or SC in the hurricane warning area on Thursday and Friday and move slowly near the coastline through Saturday. "It's a big one", he said. He said the federal government is "absolutely, totally prepared" for Florence.
Latest forecasts show the storm lingering near the coast, bringing days of heavy that could bring intense inland flooding from SC to Virginia - parts of North Carolina could get 40 inches (1 metre).
Lane said that Hurricane Florence is not a storm of inconvenience.
This same area will also likely experience a prolonged period of destructive winds resulting in power outages that could last for days or weeks.
The threat of storm surges loom for areas in the path of the storm, meaning life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland is possible in the next 36 hours. Executives in North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia declared emergencies earlier in the week. Residents in some parts of the Carolinas have been ordered to evacuate.
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Col. Glenn McNeill with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol said troopers are on standby statewide to assist where needed.
In Hampton Roads, a tropical storm watch remains in effect from Poquoson to the Virginia-North Carolina border.
An additional 25 percent of deaths are related to rain, he said.
Winds shouldn't be much of a factor, and as Panovich said, we shouldn't focus too much on the wind impacts.
20 to 30 inches will fall on southeastern North Carolina, Charlotte could see around five to 10 inches of rain. A year ago, people would have laughed off such a forecast, but the European model was accurate in predicting 60 inches for Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, so "you start to wonder what these models know that we don't", University of Miami hurricane expert Brian McNoldy said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Goes-East weather-monitoring satellite used its lightning mapping technology for a video showing Florence, Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Helene as they traveled across the Atlantic on Tuesday. With that much size and strength, even a glancing blow could be devastating - something forecasters stressed as they noted the shift in the predicted track.