In South Carolina, officials urged residents to prepare for wind, rain, extended power outages, downed trees and even potential mudslides as the storm hovers over the state and dumps millions of gallons of rainwater, as Hurricane Harvey did in the Houston area a year ago.
Hurricane Florence's leading edge battered the Carolina coast Thursday, bending trees and shooting frothy sea water over streets on the Outer Banks, as the hulking storm closed in with 100 miles per hour winds for a drenching siege that could last all weekend.
As Florence reaches landfall, storm surges are the biggest concern, with 49% of U.S. hurricane deaths attributed to surges.
Florence crashed into the Carolina coast on Friday, felling trees, dumping almost three feet (0.91 m) of rain on some spots and leading to the deaths of at least four people before it was downgraded to a tropical storm still capable of wreaking havoc.
Coastal cities in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are under evacuation orders as the Category 2 hurricane approaches the United States.
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for.
"It is scary. When somebody tells you something like that, it's my cue to get out. The infrastructure's going to break, the power's going to go out. but we are going to do everything that we can to push forward as quickly as we can to get things back up and working".
"It truly is really about the whole size of this storm", National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said.
The expected high winds and slow movement of the hurricane as it comes ashore are likely to make rescue efforts in flooded areas challenging, senior US Defence Department officials say.
As of late Thursday, the hurricane center said Florence was 95 kilometers southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, with top sustained winds of 150 kilometers per hour (90 mph).
"If we lose the house, oh well, we can get housing".
The storm was a risky Category 4 hurricane Wednesday but has been downgraded to a Category 2 storm Thursday.
"This storm will bring destruction to North Carolina". According to Fire Chief Glen Rogers, there are in fact only 12 people left on the beach to sit out the storm.
Around midday, Spanish moss blew sideways in the trees as the winds increased in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City.
It was downgraded Friday afternoon to a tropical storm with winds of 70 mph (110 kph) before its core slogged into coastal SC hours later.
Residents are still recovering from Hurricane Matthew and communities with financial struggles are slow to rebuild after a major disaster.
"So this is a very risky storm", said Mr Long.
In some counties, almost 1 in 3 people live below the poverty line.
He said: "I could be wrong".
Utility companies are predicting power outages that could reach between one-to-three million across both North and SC for days and possibly weeks. The National Weather Service measured storm surge in New Bern at 10 feet (3 meters) deep.
Utility crews had largely stopped stringing power lines during the peak of the storm and said they would not resume restoring power until wind speeds subsided and flood waters receded, which could take several areas in the hardest-hit areas.
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