Hurricane Florence made landfall between Wrightsville Beach and Myrtle Grove, North Carolina Friday morning at 7:15 a.m.
Officials in New Bern, which dates to the early 18th century, said more than 100 people were rescued from floods and the downtown was under water by Friday afternoon. Parts of buildings ripped apart by the storm flew through the air. Its forward movement was 6 miles per hour (9 kph).
There were no immediate reports of any deaths.
WIND: Tropical storm conditions will continue through Saturday morning in portions of the warning area along the coast and also over large portions of eastern North Carolina and extreme eastern SC, with tropical storm force wind gusts spreading well inland.
Atlantic Beach on North Carolina's Outer Banks islands had already received 30 inches of rain, the U.S. Geological Survey said, while more than 25 inches have fallen in the Newport, Morehead City area since Thursday.
(AAP) At 2am local time, Florence was located about 55km east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles (150 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).
The wind howled and sheets of rain splattered against windows of a hotel before dawn in Wilmington, where Sandie Orsa of Wilmington sat in a lobby lit by emergency lights after the power failed. "We got thrown into mailboxes, houses, trees", said Holt, who had stayed at home because of a doctor's appointment that was later canceled.
But weather officials have cautioned that Florence's promise of heavy rains - and the flash flooding and prolonged flooding it will cause - likely will be the storm's most unsafe impact, especially since the storm surges will block the usual flow of water back to the ocean. Hundreds more had to be rescued elsewhere from rising waters.
The water "is as high as it's ever been, and waves are breaking on my point, which is normally grass", said Copeland, a freelance photographer for The Associated Press.
Florence also blew down trees, including one that went through the roof of Kevin DiLoreto's home in Wilmington. "Nothing's hit the house yet, but it's still blowing".
The 62 guests were rescused from The Triangle Motor Inn in Jacksonville which had been structurally damaged.
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Emergency officials say they're keeping a close eye on the forecast and where to move resources to respond to the storm. Hurricane Florence is now expected to head more directly west after making landfall , crossing through SC .
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The Wilmington airport had a wind gust clocked at 105 miles per hour (169 kph), the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958.
And about 46 miles farther up the waterfront, in New Bern, about 150 people were waiting to be rescued from floods on the Neuse River, WXII-TV reported. The city said two out-of-state FEMA teams were working on swift-water rescues, and more teams were on the way.
At least 88,000 people were without power in North Carolina with the brunt of the storm yet to come, according to the state's emergency management agency.
More than 12,000 were in shelters in North Carolina and 400 people in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.
About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than a million were ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia. As in past storm events, these animal are taken to other shelters including those in the NY area.
Florence was seen as a major test for FEMA, 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 months that followed. About two dozen locals gathered Thursday night in the USA behind the boarded-up windows of The Barbary Coast bar as Florence blew into Wilmington.
Others were at home hoping for the best.
"This is our only home".
"We live in a mobile home so we were just like 'No way, '" she said.
Swells generated by Florence have been impacting the southeastern United States, including Florida, and will continue to do so into the weekend.