The hurricane has been moving at only 3-6 miles per hour as it drops torrential rains.
Currently, Florence is 34.2°N and 77.2°W and is about 45 km east of Wilmington, North Carolina and 80 km southwest of Morehead City, North Carolina, moving in a west-northwest direction at the speed of 9 km per hour.
Forecasters said conditions will continue to deteriorate as the storm makes its way slowly inland.
"We'll handle it. We're ready". Hurricane-force winds, 74 miles per hour or higher, extended 80 miles from the eye, while tropical storm-force winds, 39 miles per hour or higher, extended almost 200 miles from the eye, in every direction.
"Some of the rainfall totals we're getting are already adding up to about 14 inches", NHC Director Ken Graham said shortly after 11 a.m. ET.
The United States Geological Survey recorded flood water 10.01 feet deep in the town of New Bern in North Carolina. By midnight, Amy Johnson in Belhaven, North Carolina, on the Pungo River posted a video of raging floodwaters that had inundated the first floor of her home.
Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), warned the danger was not only along the coast: "Inland flooding kills a lot of people, unfortunately, and that's what we're about to see", he said. A 78-year-old man was electrocuted attempting to connect extension cords while another man perished when he was blown down by high winds while checking on his hunting dogs, a county spokesman said.
According to reports the cyclone has finally arrived on Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina.
Rescue workers in North Carolina meanwhile were scrambling to save people stranded in their homes.
"We've got nearly 20,000 people in 157 shelters", Cooper said.
North Carolina utilities have estimated that as many as 2.5 million state residents could be left without power, the state's Department of Public Safety said.
"Afterwards, I'm going to drink a bottle of whiskey and take a two-day nap, but right now I'm walking the neighborhood and making sure my neighbors are fine, because nobody can get in here".
There's still a threat from rising tides, Risty-Davis says.
"The idea of having to leave with my two cats and go somewhere for a week or more. once you leave, you don't know how many days it will be before you can return", a Wilmington resident named Kate tells VOA.
The National Weather Service shared images of Union Point on the shore at New Bern before and after the storm surge hit.
The Wilmington airport had a wind gust clocked at 105 miles per hour, the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958. At the city's airport, the wind was gusting at 91 miles per hour.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said the hurricane was "wreaking havoc" on the coast and could wipe out entire communities as it makes its "violent grind across our state for days".
Wind speeds are kicking up far from the coast in central SC as Hurricane Florence slowly makes its way along the coast.
The National Hurricane Centre said a gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, reported 6.3 feet (1.92 metres) of inundation. The storm is expected to lumber into far southeastern North Carolina and eastern SC through Saturday, punishing the area with rain and damaging winds. Forecasters said that given the storm's size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey.
Additional states have declared states of emergency ahead of the storm, including Georgia and the District of Columbia. "Everybody laughs at the fact that this storm got downgraded. but I've never seen tree devastation this bad".
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