The storm's first effects were already being seen on barrier islands as risky rip currents hit beaches and seawater flowed over a state highway.
The evacuations have prompted spot outages at gasoline stations, according to a spokesman for North Carolina Petroleum Marketers Association, but supplies have been quickly replenished.
It is too early to know the exact path the storm will take but it could hit land on Thursday, the centre added.
The US National Hurricane Center has warned that winds could reach 130 miles per hour, turning Florence into a fearsome category 4 storm.
People living well inland should prepare to lose power and endure flooding and other hazards, he warned.
He said: "It's pushing its way forward, but Thursday morning it is just off the coast". "You see how it's beginning to wrap around the center".
Mr Roker told TODAY viewers: 'We're at the peak of the tropical Atlantic hurricane season, and right now we've got three hurricanes, Helene, Issac and Florence. Packing heavy winds with a maximum sustained wind speed of 130 miles per hour (195 km/h), the hurricane is slowly barreling toward the U.S. East Coast, at a speed of approximately 13 miles per hour (20 km/h). It was centered about 1,230 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, and moving west at 13 mph.
Hurricane-force winds could buffet the Carolinas by Wednesday night with landfall likely in SC and North Carolina on Thursday, followed by heavy rains that could cause flooding in much of the U.S. Southeast, the NHC said.
"This is a big, big hurricane", McMaster said, noting that wind speeds are predicted to be more violent than in either of the the region's two most damaging storms of the past 30 years.
The other storms Tropical Storm Isaac and Tropical Storm Helene are both expected to become hurricanes Sunday or Monday.
Rapper Mac Miller has died at 26
His good friend and fellow Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa tweeted, "Praying for Mac's family and that he rest easy". In May, he was arrested for a DUI and hit and run after crashing into a power pole and fleeing the scene.
In the Pacific, Hurricane Olivia triggered warnings for multiple Hawaiian islands as it blew west toward an arrival over the state as soon as late tomorrow or early Thursday.
Some forecasts call for Florence to stall out after it strikes the coast.
Florence could be the first Category 4 hurricane to hit the Carolinas since Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
"With Hurricane Florence on its way, we determined that this is the safest decision", Michael Glassner of the Trump Campaign said in a statement. Roberts said he's telling them to get out of town.
Several meteorologists said Florence could do what Hurricane Harvey did over Texas, dumping days of rain, although not quite as bad.
Sluggish or stalled hurricanes - like Hurricane Harvey, which flooded swaths of Houston, Texas and the Gulf Coast past year - can become even more unsafe as they stick around, pouring rain. "Flooding is the deadliest result of these storms".
"There is still time to prepare but the window to do so is starting to close", he said. And out here we're so fragile.
Classes are canceled for Kaczmarek on Tuesday, so she's planning on heading back home to Cheshire to ride out the storm.
"This one is hard", she said, having been through hurricane damage before.