After making landfall near Wilmington, Florence is expected to head west across SC before making a turn toward the north over the next few days.
Although Florence has weakened from a Category 4 to Category 1 storm, its area of strong winds has gotten bigger. "I've got four cats inside the house".
"To those in the storm's path, if you can hear me, please stay sheltered in place", he said at a news conference in Raleigh, adding that Florence would "continue its violent grind across the state for days".
The storm's maximum sustained winds held at about 90 miles per hour (144 km/h), and it appeared that the north side of the eye was the most risky place to be as Florence moved ashore.
The Wilmington airport had a wind gust clocked at 105 miles per hour (169 kph), the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958.
On Friday, coastal streets in the Carolinas flowed with frothy ocean water, and pieces of torn-apart buildings flew through the air.
"Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other risky conditions", the hurricane center briefing said.
Officials found a basketball-sized hole in the hotel wall and other life-threatening damage, with some cinder blocks crumbling and parts of the roof collapsing.
Sarah Risty-Davis, a resident of New Bern, tells NPR she had water up to the second floor in her 1920s-era home near Neuse River.
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Forecasters said "catastrophic" freshwater flooding was expected along waterways far from the coast of North and SC.
WXII-TV reported that 150 people were waiting to be rescued from rising waters in the city New Bern.
Experts are warning people that the most serious threat posed by Florence might just be the massive amount of water it is expected to leave in its wake, from the storm surge that could exceed 13 feet in some areas to a deluge of rainfall that may hit 40 inches in certain pockets.
For more on Hurricane Florence, visit the FOX 46 Resource Center. Roberts says the storm surge continues to increase as Florence passes over the area.
We wrote up the story, laughed about it, and moved on. New Bern is about 32 miles north of Morehead City, North Carolina, and 101 miles southeast of Raleigh.
Forecasters' European climate model is predicting 2 trillion to 11 trillion gallons of rain will fall on North Carolina over the next week, according to meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com.
More than 320,000 power outages were reported across North Carolina and almost 4,400 in SC. "A USGS gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, recently recorded 6.3 feet of inundation".
As of 3 a.m., Florence hadn't moved and was still centered about 35 miles (55 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina.
"Very eerie, the wind howling, the rain blowing sideways, debris flying", said Orsa, who lives nearby and feared splintering trees would pummel her house.
"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".