Hurricane "Florence" reached the coast in the Eastern United States

National Hurricane Center

Hurricane Florence edged closer to the east coast of the United States on Thursday, with tropical-force winds and rain already lashing barrier islands just off the North Carolina mainland.

This next video below, taken by Mark Cogdell, shows a gas station on Market St.in Wilmington, North Carolina collapsing in Hurricane Florence's winds. At least four people were killed. According to the National Hurricane Center, the storm will travel through upstate SC, be downgraded to a tropical depression, then turn north toward the Ohio Valley.

Forecasters said Florence's surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet of sea water.

On Friday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper called Florence an "uninvited brute who doesn't want to leave", warning it could wipe out entire communities as it grinds its way across land.

The hurricane center said the storm will eventually break up over the southern Appalachians and make a right hook to the northeast, its rainy remnants moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England by the middle of next week.

"I about jumped out of my skin", he said in a phone interview Friday morning. When they got to the home, the woman was dead, authorities said.

Police say 150-200 residents have already been rescued in New Bern and about 100 are awaiting rescue.

"And from that point, we started hearing where people were saying on phone calls, 'I love you, ' to their family members because they were not sure they were going to get out of it alive", she said Friday.

A wind gust at the Wilmington airport was clocked at 105 miles per hour (nearly 170 kph), the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958.

The main danger will be from the high volume of rainfall, with weather forecasters warning that North Carolina could see eight months worth of rain in just a few days.

Updated NHC forecasts showed the storm lingering near the coast of the Carolinas, carrying days of heavy rains that could bring intense inland flooding from SC to Virginia. It started pushing its way westward across SC later in the day, in a watery siege that could go on all weekend.

According to NOAA, the river crested nine feet above normal overnight.

Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.

The centre of the hurricane's eye came ashore at about 7:15 a.m. EDT.

About 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders and millions of others live in areas likely to be affected by the storm.

Craven County Emergency Services has reported impassible roads due to flooding; downed power lines; and trees on cars.

The Wilmington airport had a wind gust clocked at 105 miles per hour (169 kph), the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958. Nationwide, airlines cancelled more than 2,400 flights through Sunday.

As the death toll from Florence mounted and hundreds of people were pulled from flooded homes, North Carolina is bracing for what could be the next stage of a still-unfolding disaster: widespread, catastrophic river flooding. The city said two Federal Emergency Management Agency teams were working on swift-water rescues, and more were on the way.

"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.

The wind howled and sheets of rain splattered against windows of a hotel before daybreak in Wilmington, where Sandie Orsa of Wilmington sat in a lobby lit by emergency lights after the power failed.

"You can see there's fish floating around in here", she said.

Coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely empty, and schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia.

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