The center was located about 325 miles (520 km) east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
By mid-afternoon the winds had dropped to 75 miles per hour (120 kph) and the centre was moving west at 6 miles per hour (10 kph), the NHC said, and parts of North and SC would get as much as 40 inches of rain (1 metre).
Ricardo Olivares, of Wilmington, North Carolina, covers windows at the Mellow Mushroom in Wilmington, North Carolina on September 11, 2018. The child's father was injured and taken to a hospital. A woman in Pender County, North Carolina, died from a heart attack after calling emergency services, as paramedics could not reach her because of fallen trees. His body was discovered by family members.
The fifth, a 78-year-old man, was found dead on a street outside of Kinston. Officials believe he was blown down by the wind when he went out to check on his hunting dogs.
Forecasters warned of catastrophic flooding and other mayhem from the monster storm, which is only Category 1, but physically sprawling and unsafe.
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"It looks heavy outside", she said.
A spokesperson for the ABC affiliate said roads around the building were flooding. Another 150, including some trapped in second floors of houses or in attics, awaited rescue. "We know how to prepare our plants for these types of major events".
Before dawn on Friday, authorities had been forced to rescue more than 60 people in Wilmington, some who had ignored evacuation orders.
Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it's unclear how many did. Police and fire teams forced their way into some rooms to free the residents, who were temporarily taken to the town's center for public safety.
Hurricane Florence is weakening slightly as it continues toward the Carolina coastal areas, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Wednesday, adding that life-threatening storm surge and rainfall were still expected.
He warned that Florence could be "one of the biggest ever to hit the East Coast".
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The most powerful and only Category 4 hurricane in recorded history to hit the North Carolina coast was Hurricane Hazel in October 1954. It was also expected to slip briefly back into the open water during the journey. For information specific to your area, please see products issued by your local National Weather Service forecast office at http://www.weather.gov. NHC noted "Life-threatening, catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding are likely over portions of the Carolinas and the southern and central Appalachians through early next week, as Florence is expected to slow down while it moves inland".
Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina at 7:15 AM EDT (1115 UTC) with estimated maximum winds of 90 miles per hour (150 km/h), and a minimum central pressure estimate of 958 millibars.
The disaster area was expected to get about as much rain in three days as the 1999 Dennis and Floyd storms dropped in two weeks.
While thousands chose to flee the coast, others hunkered down.
Shaken after seeing waves crashing on the Neuse River just outside his house in New Bern, restaurant owner and hurricane veteran Tom Ballance wished he had evacuated. "I'm a little bit scared right now", she said, "but I have my iPad and I'm watching Netflix".
"It's unsafe, a lot of trees", Charlebois said. "We are staying here to keep you up to date". Plus, they'd be there in the morning if first responders needed them. Forecasters said Florence is expected to blow ashore late Thursday or early Friday, even as President Donald Trump has declared states of emergency for North and SC and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid.
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Authorities in New Bern said more than 100 people had to be saved from floods and that the downtown area was underwater. The storm's centre was about 50 miles south of Morehead City at around 11 p.m. (0300 GMT Friday ).