A family enjoys the surf ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Oak Island, North Carolina.
The eye of the storm reached Wrightsville Beach, several miles east of Wilmington, around 7:15 eastern time, with estimated maximum winds of 90 mph.
But the NHC also said tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 195 miles (315 km) from its center, leaving a swathe of the USA eastern seaboard vulnerable, much of it low-lying and stretching from Georgia north through the Carolinas into Virginia. It is expected to move across parts of southeastern North Carolina and eastern SC on Friday and Saturday, then head north over the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC said. Eventually, Florence will veer north into the Appalachian Mountains, bringing soaking rains to Virginia and western North Carolina, before sputtering out late next week near DE and Maryland, the FWS reported.
Southeastern coastal North Carolina and far northeastern SC are expected to get pelted with 20 to 30 inches of rain, and some isolated spots may get up to 40 inches in 48 hours. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect from north of Duck, North Carolina to Cape Charles Light, Virginia for the Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort, and from Edisto Beach South Carolina to South Santee River, South Carolina.
Speaking at the White House, Trump said "protection of life is the absolute highest priority".
Almost 9,00,000 homes and businesses were without power in the Carolinas early on Friday, utility officials said.
That's because the weather systems that push and pull a storm disappear as Florence nears land around the border between North and SC.
"Today is the time to get your preparedness actions complete", he said. Some weakening could occur as Florence moves across cooler waters and draws upwelling on the shallow continental shelf, but that will not lessen the storm's danger, NHC forecasters said. Thus far, 1.7 million people have been required to leave their homes in the coastal areas of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, and millions of homes have been put under official watch or warnings for extreme weather conditions. Floodwaters submerged U.S. Highway 264, cutting off a major route to other flood-prone areas along the river and the adjacent Pamlico Sound.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, concerned the storm would bring its devastation south, issued an emergency declaration for all 159 counties in his state. "There's nobody left to work".
"It looks heavy outside", she said. "You can't stop Mother Nature".
"Everything is packed", Espinoza said.
SC ordered the mandatory evacuation of one million coastal residents while North Carolina ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks, barrier islands that are a popular tourist destination. "I've never seen tree devastation this bad".
Some residents ignored calls to evacuate.
The storm is expected to slow down, stall and then perhaps wander just off the Carolina shore as it nears the coast Thursday, Friday and Saturday.