Others turned to social media and held live prayer sessions asking God to cause Hurricane Florence to lose strength.
There was a threat from tornadoes as Florence made landfall, the NHC said.
But the most risky threat comes from Florence's rains and storm surge, which could bring flooding far inland.
Hurricane conditions will likely hit the Carolina coast on Thursday night or early Friday.
As of the 8 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Florence was 170 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, N.C.
The storm is moving to the northwest at 90 miles per hour (150 kph).
These same areas that are inundated with storm surge will also be hammered by damaging winds sustained at 50 to 70 miles per hour with gusts as high as 80 to 90 miles per hour - strong enough to damage homes and buildings, down trees and knock out power.
Hurricane Florence nears the coast of the Carolinas, Sept. 13, 2018 as a Category 2 storm. Catastrophic river flooding and flash flooding will occur for a large portion of eastern North and SC. The storm is expected to be slowmoving and last for a few days.
Hurricane Florence is predicted to bring "catastrophic flash flooding" to parts of North and SC, along with strong winds and a massive storm surge.
- High winds and floodwaters could knock power out for several days, if not longer, officials said.
When the center of Florence gets near the coast or just across the North Carolina coastline, it will turn to the left and head toward SC.
With their entire neighborhood evacuated in Wilmington, North Carolina, David and Janelle Garrigus planned to ride out Florence at their daughters one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte.
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For those in an evacuation area, "there is still time to get out", Cooper said Thursday. FEMA, First Responders and Law Enforcement are supplied and ready.
"Bad things can happen when you are talking about a storm this size".
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster added: "Time is running out".
But not everyone has packed their bags.
But North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent".
All four major U.S. airlines have said they are capping selected airfares below what last-minute tickets would cost.
She continued: "Of course we're anxious". They formed a convoy to an emergency operations center, according to the Jacksonville Daily News. "We're still going to have a Category 4 storm surge". And if we feel the need to leave we'll go.
Winds bent trees toward the ground and raindrops flew sideways as Florence moved in for an extended stay, with enough of its killer winds swirling overseas to maintain its power.
In Awendaw, South Carolina, Chris Johnson said he's staying behind to watch his house while his wife, Michele, is evacuating. "I can take care of all of that", Chris Johnson told ABC News.
"I'm anxious about what I might find when I go home, though", she said. "It's probably good for our marriage". "But I think it'll be OK".
"Since my husband retired and my health declined, we have his retirement as an income. We can keep in touch".
Severe inland flooding is also forecast for the Palmetto State, which is expected to see Florence drift through its Pee Dee, Midlands and Upstate regions on Saturday and Sunday.
The South Carolina county encompassing Myrtle Beach has imposed a 7 p.m.to 7 a.m. curfew.
FlightAware expects the number of cancellations to rise, although "the limited number of hubs being impacted by Florence will likely limit the scale of disruption that cascades through the national air travel system", spokeswoman Sara Orsi said in a statement.
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A storm surge warning has been issued from South Santee River, SC, to Duck, NC, and the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds. It will possibly weaken somewhat as it nears land - but that will hardly change the flooding threat.
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