More than 80,000 people in North Carolina already were without power as the storm began buffeting the coast, and more than 12,000 were in shelters.
Florence was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared past year for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the storm was blamed for almost 3,000 deaths in the desperate aftermath.
New Bern resident Latasha Jones is one of the more fortunate ones.
"It doesn't matter how much money you have or how many generators you have if you can't get gas", she said. "We were anxious about the hurricane, had it continued to be as strong as what they were originally stating". The storm's winds will slowly weaken, but some of its most devastating effects may be yet to come. We have steps on the sides of the house so it's a few feet off the ground anyway. "I hope we don't but that might be the only thing that would affect us", James said.
Not everyone was taking Florence too seriously: About two dozen locals gathered Thursday night in the U.S. behind the boarded-up windows of The Barbary Coast bar as Florence blew into Wilmington. Authorities have advised people, however, to move to higher levels in their homes while they wait to be rescued.
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The Coast Guard says port operations in Charleston, South Carolina, have been stopped as Hurricane Florence approaches the coast.
Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m.at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington, not far from the SC line, coming ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.
The center said the threat of freshwater flooding will increase over the next several days.
The storm's movement, not its strength, has forecasters and officials anxious.
Florence will crawl along the coast through Friday bringing a relentless period of winds gusting over 100mph along with heavy rainfall. A storm surge warning is in effect for South Santee River South Carolina to Duck North Carolina.
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In addition, the threat of storm surges looms for areas in the path of the storm, meaning life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland is possible in the next 36 hours.
Forecasters said "catastrophic" freshwater flooding was expected along waterways far from the coast of the Carolinas.
There is also the possibility that the weather will take a turn from bad to worse, with a tornado warning thrown into the mix. It has also moved most ships, submarines, and planes from their base at Hampton Roads, Virginia to safety far at sea or in distant airbases.
Cooper said 108 shelters are open across the state, with more than 7,000 people already staying at them, as of Thursday afternoon. A mandatory evacuation order was issued for the area earlier this week.
So, in case you're wondering how a neighbourhood hit by the hurricane could be impacted, check out this brilliant example of the augmented reality that has left people spellbound. Some residents have reported that they are trapped in their attics and on their roofs as storm surge has flooded the lower levels of their homes. As Cooper said, "There's nowhere for the water to go". "I built this house myself, so I'm not anxious at all, I know it's solid", he said. On Friday, he applauded the efforts of emergency responders. "Thank you!", Trump wrote on Twitter.
"It will be historic", Baker said of the rain from Florence.
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