Tropical Storm Isaac is forecast to approach the Lesser Antilles Islands on Thursday.
Of those who left, more than 4,000 had sought housing at emergency shelters across the state.
Only two of the 61 shelters were at capacity Thursday.
Power outages and flood-related damage to pumps caused by the hurricane will also disrupt pipeline operations, threatening petroleum supplies in this region.
More significant weakening was expected over the weekend and into early next week while Florence moves inland, the NHC said. The storm's forward speed had slowed to 6 miles per hour, and forecasters were concerned it might have stalled.
No matter how devastating or catastrophic a hurricane or typhoon is predicted to be, there will inevitably be some people who refuse to evacuate and insist on riding the storm out-and with Hurricane Florence getting ready to assault the Carolinas, some residents of coastal areas in North and SC are doing exactly that.
Trump expected to visit areas hit by Hurricane Florence
They said, 'Throw 'em to me! GWU Research to tell them how many people had died in Puerto Rico (how would they not know this?).
"We're seeing on social media, we're seeing comments and calls coming into our hotline that people are saying, 'Oh, it's only a Cat 2.' Well, only a Cat 2 has winds of up to 96 to 110 miles per hour", Derrec Becker, spokesman for the S.C. Emergency Management Division told The State on Thursday.
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A hurricane warning is in effect for South Santee River, SC, north to Duck, NC, and the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds.
"We're a little anxious about the storm surge so we came down to see what the river is doing now", Smith said.
For the Columbia area, state and city officials warned of the likelihood of flash flooding.
Being such a small number, first responders have made clear to them the situation when the storm makes its expected complete landfall by 8 a.m. Friday morning.
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With winds picking up along the coastline early Thursday, federal and state officials had issued final appeals to residents to get out of the path of the "once in a lifetime" weather system.
Florence's forward movement during the day slowed to a near-standstill sometimes it was going no faster than a human can walk and that enabled it to pile on the rain. "Stay on guard", Cooper said.
"So if there if a storm surge of ten feet at high tide which is plus two feet above the North Carolina sea level so the storm surge would mean that you will be at twelve feet and then the waves would be in addition to that", says Young. In New Bern, on the Neuse River, a CNN team had to keep shifting position in a park as the water kept rising until it was too unsafe to stay in the area.
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Wilmington resident Julie Terrell said she was concerned after walking to breakfast past a row of shops fortified with boards, sandbags and hurricane shutters. It's moving north, and is expected to turn away from the U.S.
"Make no mistake - whether the eye of the storm makes landfall along our shores or farther south, we're on the wrong side of it", Cooper said.
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Hanks said a fourth person died while checking on his hunting dogs, and authorities believe he was blown over by the wind. Roy Cooper called Florence an "uninvited brute" that could wipe out entire communities as it grinds its way across land.