Hurricane Florence makes landfall as torrential rains batter coast

Millions brace for Hurricane Florence to make landfall

But the storm still carried "very risky winds", the Center added.

One video, below shows the effect from a potential storm surge which could rise up to 9 feet in some areas.

More ominously, forecasters said the onslaught would last for hours and hours because Florence was barely creeping along at 6 mph (9 kph) and still drawing energy from the ocean.

"The rainfall is going to be the big impact for the area", Hawkins said.

The Category 1 hurricane's center is expected to crash onshore sometime Friday and unload flash flooding, pounding wind and towering storm surges at least through Saturday.

The Category 1 storm officially made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, shortly before 7:45 a.m.

Hurricane Florence rolled ashore in North Carolina with howling 90 miles per hour winds and terrifying storm surge early Friday, trapping hundreds of people in high water as it settled in for what could be a long and extraordinarily destructive drenching. But Florence's forward movement had slowed to a crawl, and it piled on the rain in a siege that could go on all weekend long.

According to the National Hurricane Centre, heavy rains with tropical-storm-force winds were yesterday spreading across the outer banks and coastal south-eastern North Carolina. Forecasters warned of "catastrophic" freshwater flooding along the Carolinas.

More than 360 people had been rescued in the coastal city of New Bern, North Carolina, by Friday evening, and another 140 were in need of help, a city spokeswoman said.

The town's public information officer, Colleen Roberts, told CNN 150 more people were awaiting rescue.

As of 5 a.m., Florence was 25 miles (55 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina.

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Flood waters surround a house as Hurricane Florence hits Swansboro N.C., on Friday. Officials said about 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it was unclear how many did.

New Bern, N.C., officials reported on Twitter that about 150 people were waiting to be rescued, and two Federal Emergency Management Agency teams were in the area.

Shaken after seeing waves crashing in the Neuse River just outside his house in the town of New Bern, hurricane veteran Tom Ballance wished he had evacuated.

Warning of looming storm surges of nine to 12 feet, he urged residents to take the storm seriously no matter the category, saying "this is all about the water, anyway".

"We're on our way, we will get you rescued", Outlaw said while cautioning that first responders have to be careful of their own safety.

Florence's center may linger for another whole day along the Carolinas' coast - punishing homes with crushing winds and floods and endangering those who've stayed behind.

The Navy says nearly 30 Virginia-based ships and 128 aircraft sent away from their bases in the Hampton Roads-area because of now-Tropical Storm Florence have been given the go-ahead to return.

Forecasters have warned of "life-threatening, catastrophic flash flooding" in North and SC.

For them, this will be like Hurricane Irma previous year in South Florida - a long duration, relentless wind with storm surge, but times two or three. A gauge on the river had already recorded 10 feet of inundation, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. On the forecast track, the center of Florence is expected to move inland across extreme southeastern North Carolina and extreme eastern SC today and Saturday.

The combination of a unsafe storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.

The now Category 1 storm's intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to 90 miles per hour (135 kph) by nightfall. They're riding out the storm at their home with four children - ages 11 to 17 - Marson's friend, four dogs, two chinchillas, a cat and a lizard.

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