More than 440,000 homes and businesses were without power in North and SC early on Friday, utility officials said.
Reports out of Wilmington, North Carolina, said that the outer bands of wind and rain from Florence, a Category 2 storm with 105 miles per hour winds, are hitting North Carolina.
It didn't take long for Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand to start feeling its impacts, with the area waking up to steady 20-30 miles per hour winds Friday morning.
"We're helping out a lot of people today", says Craven County Emergency Services spokesperson Amber Parker.
A North Carolina weatherman who remained at his post to provide live updates on Hurricane Florence was forced to evacuate mid-broadcast as the TV station began to flood. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU".
And while Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm Friday afternoon, meteorologists predict heavy rain - up to 2 feet of rain when all is said and done - will continue into the weekend.
A tree fell on a homeowner's auto, parked in the driveway as Hurricane Florence made landfall in Wilmington, North Carolina. It also led many people to mock the reporter for his demeanor reporting on the storm. The NHC said parts of North and SC may get as much as 40 inches of rain. 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.More news: Nintendo’s new wireless NES controllers are a Switch Online exclusive
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New Bern resident Dan Eudy said he and his brother were awakened on Thursday night by the sound of a boat ramming against his front porch. Authorities say at least 20,000 people have evacuated their homes and are sought refuge in shelters throughout North Carolina. Harris Teeter, a Kroger Co. subsidiary, announced closings for 24 stores in North Carolina and 18 stores in SC.
"The National Hurricane Center said Florence is moving very slowly to the west at only 6 miles an hour, then is expected to turn to the southwest, increasing the threat for historic storm surge and catastrophic flooding to coastline areas and inland cities in North Carolina and SC".
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 just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses and washing over industrial waste sites and hog-manure ponds.
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.
Florence pounded away at the coast with torrential downpours and surging seas, rescue crews used boats to reach more than 360 people besieged by rising waters in New Bern, while many of their neighbours awaited help.
"(Its) very eerie, the wind howling, the rain blowing sideways, debris flying", said Orsa, who lives nearby and fears splintering trees will pummel her house.
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.
Another Wilmington resident said she did not want to leave because she was afraid to see what she would come back to after the storm.