Despite the downgrade, Florence is expected to produce catastrophic flooding throughout the Carolinas.
As of 8 a.m. EDT it was centered about 170 miles (275 kilometers) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and about 220 miles (355 kilometers) east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, moving northwest at 12 mph (20 kph).
A surge is also likely along portions of the SC coast. The storm is huge, the National Hurricane Center says, and its worst effects will reach "a large area regardless of exactly where the center of Florence moves".
The "threat of freshwater flooding will increase over the next several days" in the impacted areas.
The storm was heading for the coast of the two states but heavy rain was also expected in Virginia to the north and Georgia to the south. The storm was moving northwest at 12 miles per hour.
The outer bands of wind and rain caused by the storm were already lashing North Carolina on Thursday morning.
Colgate coach Dan Hunt made a decision to pay it forward after the team's game against Furman was canceled due to Hurricane Florence.
It is now a tropical storm with top sustained winds of 90 miles per hour (150 kph), but a gust of 112 miles per hour (180 kph) was reported just offshore.
An intense wave, as well as heavy rains, will announce on Thursday on the coast of Las Carolinas, the arrival of Florence.More news: Space Station astronaut captures mammoth Hurricane Florence from directly above
The rainfall could also cause the overflow of the area's river basins, which could lead to flooding that will last anywhere from one to three weeks.
Hurricane Florence weakened from a Category 4 down to a Category 2 storm Wednesday night but the massive system is still considered extremely risky and life threatening. He says: "If Mama and Grandma are going, then a lot of people are leaving". "Our meteorologists are saying that the rainfall amounts will be devastating in certain areas", he said.
An estimated 20-30 inches of rainfall is projected for coastal North Carolina and northeastern SC - with up to forty inches in isolated areas.
Numerous roads were closed, and authorities warned of the risk of landslides, tornadoes and flash floods, with dams and bridges in peril as rivers and creeks swelled.
The forecast suggests as much as 40in of rain over seven days along the coast, with the deluge continuing even as the centre of the storm pushes its way over the Appalachian Mountains.
"If you are refusing to leave during this mandatory evacuation, you need to do things like notify your legal next of kin because the loss of life is very, very possible", Mayor Mitch Colvin said at a news conference.
People in areas vulnerable to the risky hurricane, particularly those in coastal regions, have fled ahead of the storm.
More than 10 million people are under watches and warnings, the Associated Press reported.
About one million seven hundred thousand people have been ordered to evacuate on the coast of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The National Weather Service said about 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches.