This doesn't mean that the storm isn't just as unsafe, as the bulk of the damage and possible loss of life will likely come from the 9-foot storm surge or up to 40 inches of rain that meteorologists are predicting.
Its storm surge and the prospect of 1 to 3 feet of rain were considered an even bigger threat than its winds, which dropped way down from a terrifying 140 miles per hour - Category 4 - earlier in the week.
"You put your life at risk by staying", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said. The list of canceled football games included No. 13 Virginia Tech's home game against East Carolina, No. 14 West Virginia's trip to North Carolina State and No. 18 UCF's visit to North Carolina.
First Lt. Garrett Black, a member of the Air Force's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, spoke with the Washington Post about what it's like to fly through a hurricane.
Thousands more have been ordered to prepare to deploy if needed.
The images, captured from249 miles above the storm, captured Florence as it draws close to North Carolina's coast.
Cooper and other state officials repeatedly said Thursday motorists should avoid flooded roads at all costs, saying people driving through standing or moving water caused the most deaths during Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
Myrtle Beach's courses accounted for half of the $2.7 billion in economic output that golf generated for the SC economy in 2015, according to a report from the state's Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
It said the additional declaration would bring more federal help with debris removal, search and rescue teams, meals and generators, among other items. "The larger and the slower the storm is, the greater the threat and the impact - and we have that". Some of the few people still left in Nags Head on the Outer Banks took photos of angry waves topped with white froth.
Wilmington resident Julie Terrell said she was concerned after walking to breakfast past a row of shops fortified with boards, sandbags and hurricane shutters.
In Awendaw, South Carolina, Chris Johnson said he's staying behind to watch his house while his wife, Michele, is evacuating. "You can't stop Mother Nature".
Forecasters' European climate model is predicting 2 trillion to 11 trillion gallons of rain will fall on North Carolina over the next week, according to meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com. That is enough water to fill the Empire State Building almost 40,000 times.
Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it's unclear how many did.
Frustrated after evacuating his beach home for a storm that was later downgraded, retired nurse Frederick Fisher grumbled in the lobby of a Wilmington hotel several miles inland. She said a hurricane has a way of bringing everyone to the same level. "I know it's hard to move, and I know that you are leaving things behind that you don't want to leave behind, but no possession is worth your life".
"Bad things can happen when you are talking about a storm this size. A storm can come and wipe your house out overnight".
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. "This is a handsome beach here I can't imagine how it's going to be when we come back", homeowner Sheryl Andrews said.