"Don't bet your life on riding out a monster", Cooper said.
Even in downgrading Florence, which is expected to crash into the Carolinas late Thursday night or early Friday, the National Hurricane Center predicted "life-threatening storm surge", "catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding", and "damaging hurricane-force winds".
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam joined the chorus of warnings, and issued an evacuation order for about a quarter million residents in flood-prone coastal areas, beginning Tuesday morning.
A tropical storm watch is in effect for north of the North Carolina/Virginia border to Cape Charles Light, VA, and for Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort.
Transportation companies in Georgia and the Carolinas sprinted to secure property and employees in the path of Hurricane Florence on Wednesday as disruptions to the US supply chain were already being felt.
"This is no ordinary storm, and people could be without power for a very long time - not days but weeks", a president of one energy company in North Carolina said on Wednesday.
Early Wednesday afternoon in North Carolina, the storm was centered 700 kilometers (435 miles) off the coast, moving at 26 kph (16 mph) towards the USA coastline.
It then will move near or over the coast of southern North Carolina and eastern SC in the hurricane warning area later Thursday and Friday.
A state of emergency has been declared in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington amid concern over potential torrential rain and flooding.
Wilmington, North Carolina, just north of where the hurricane is expected to come ashore, was sunny around midday yesterday as the town appeared to be emptying.
The eastbound lanes of several major highways have been shut down to allow for a smooth flow of traffic inland. "We are leaving him our generator, but I don't think it's particularly smart of him".
Ferry service from North Carolina's Bald Head Island already has stopped.
"That's not necessarily connected to global warming, but that's an indication of what we might see in the future more often", he said.
Kevin Miller, a 50-year-old electrician, said he planned to ride out the storm at his home near Charleston.
On its current track, Florence is expected to hit the Carolinas and Virginia the hardest, the NHC said.
There are also parody Facebook groups jokingly encouraging people to stand outside their houses at designated times and yell things to get the hurricane to stop. "We have everything. We're ready".
Hurricane Florence has continued to grow in size as it approaches the Carolina coast.
'North Carolina, my message is clear: Disaster is at the doorstep, and it's coming in'. "We love you all, we want you safe".
In Virginia, where about 245,000 residents were ordered to evacuate low-lying areas, officials urged people to remain away from home despite forecast changes showing Florence's path largely missing the state.
Hurricane Florence has officially caught our attention due to a shift in the storm trajectory.
The NHC said Helene was weakening, however, and posed no danger to land.