Forecasters said the Category 1 storm's extreme size meant it could batter the U.S. East Coast with hurricane-force winds for almost a full day.
Roy Cooper warned residents to not let their guard down ahead of Hurricane Florence's landfall later this week.
One report was of a 10-foot surge in New Bern, North Carolina, the National Weather Service said.
The Triangle will feel the strongest effects from Florence after 8 a.m.
Officials say 321,000 people are without power in North Carolina as Florence pounds the area. But the hurricane had slowed to a crawl as it traced the North Carolina-South Carolina shoreline, drenching coastal communities for hours on end. Wake County is now under a flash flood watch. "We were anxious about the hurricane, had it continued to be as strong as what they were originally stating". Sand dunes gone storm surge 4' into house knocking down walls first floor. "We are going to be very very very limited in terms of responding".
A mother and child died in Wilmington when a tree fell on their home, police tweeted.
Officials have assured them they will be rescued by FEMA teams who are ready to do swift water rescue. Move to safety if your home is at risk.
Video from Belhaven, North Carolina, showed storm-surge flooding up to the window-level of a house early Friday morning.
The center said the threat of freshwater flooding will increase over the next several days.
Weather Channel uses mixed reality to show the effects of a hurricane
Wilmington , North Carolina, just north of where Florence appeared headed for shore, grew empty and quiet on Wednesday. Forecasters warn it will bring "catastrophic freshwater flooding", according to the National Hurricane Center.
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Washington has imposed sanctions on two Turkish ministers and doubled tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from the country. The lira has plunged in recent weeks on concerns over domestic policymaking and a crisis in relations with the United States.
Hurricane Florence Is a ‘Horrific Nightmare’ to Predict, Says Forecaster
It's forecast to gradually turn toward the northeast on Friday and then accelerate northeastward over the weekend. First responders in North Carolina are scrambling to rescue residents stranded in the coastal town of New Bern.
The non-emergency call center for Hurricane Florence is 919-996-2999.
Forecasters warned of catastrophic flooding and other mayhem from the monster storm, which is only Category 1 but physically sprawling and risky.
The storm officially made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina at 7:15 a.m. (1115 GMT), the National Hurricane Center said.
"This rainfall will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding", the hurricane center said.
The Pentagon has dispatched two ships and a Marine unit offshore to provide help if needed.
One concerning issue, he said, is whether persistent rain and high wind will preclude search and rescue helicopters from being able to operate "in the hours immediately after the storm hits".
More than 1.7 million people in Virginia, North and SC were told to evacuate ahead of Florence's arrival.
After all that, what is left of Florence will turn north towards Rochester. "It's an uninvited brute who doesn't want to leave". On Friday, he applauded the efforts of emergency responders. "Thank you!", Trump wrote on Twitter.
He warned residents to be prepared for mass power outages that could last for days or weeks, echoing the sentiments shared by Duke Energy on Wednesday.