After reaching a terrifying Category 4 peak of 140 mph (225 kph) earlier in the week, Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m.at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles (kilometers) east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line.
The storm's first casualties included a mother and her baby, who died when a tree fell on their brick house in Wilmington, North Carolina. The child's injured father was taken to a hospital.
In Pender County, North Carolina, a woman suffered a fatal heart attack; paramedics trying to reach her were blocked by debris.
"We're helping out a lot of people today", says Craven County Emergency Services spokesperson Amber Parker.
The fifth, a 78-year-old man, was found dead on a street outside of Kinston. "I love hurricanes. But this one has been an experience for me", she said.
With Hurricane Florence pummeling the Eastern Seaboard, reporters are shooting outdoors in storm-drenched areas to show viewers at home just how serious the storm is.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper called Florence an "uninvited brute" that could wipe out entire communities as it grinds across the state. The storm knocked out power to more than 890,000 homes and businesses, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the USA electrical grid.
Officials in the town of 30,000, which dates to the early 18th century, said over 100 people were rescued from floods and the downtown was under water by Friday afternoon.
New Bern resident Latasha Jones is one of the more fortunate ones. "We are stuck in the attic".
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.
Tens of thousands of homes and businesses could be flooded in North Carolina alone, Governor Cooper warned.
Wind speeds are kicking up far from the coast in central SC as Hurricane Florence slowly makes its way along the coast. Nationwide, airlines canceled more than 2,400 flights through Sunday. The storm made landfall Friday at 7:15 a.m. ET just south of Wrightsville Beach - about 6.5 miles due east for Wilmington, North Carolina.
On the forecast track, the center of Florence will move further inland across extreme southeastern North Carolina and extreme eastern SC today and Saturday.
Storm surge has accounted for about half of the deaths in hurricanes since 1970, according to the National Hurricane Center.
"It's a very risky storm", Federal Emergency Management Authority administrator Jeff Byard said.
The storm surge of up to 13 feet (3.9 meters) will be "life threatening" and rainfall of up to 40 inches (101.6 cm) will mean "catastrophic" flooding, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The National Hurricane Center said the storm would move further inland across extreme southeastern North Carolina and extreme eastern SC on Friday and Saturday.
The most powerful and only Category 4 hurricane in recorded history to hit the North Carolina coast was Hurricane Hazel in October 1954.
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