Adding to concerns, forecasters warned the larger and slow-moving storm could linger for days around the coast, leaving many without power and supplies. We can not guarantee that it is suitable for the visually or hearing impaired.
But forecasters said its extreme size meant it could batter the US East Coast with hurricane-force winds for almost a full day.
"Seeing them get out of the auto and seeing their emotions was heartbreaking", he said.
The storm made landfall at around 7:15 a.m. ET near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.
About 600,000 homes and businesses were without power in North Carolina.
Cooper said Florence was expected to cover nearly all of North Carolina in several feet of water.
Cooper said 108 shelters are open across the state, with more than 7,000 people already staying at them, as of Thursday afternoon.
Russ Lewis covers his eyes from a gust of wind and a blast of sand as Hurricane Florence approaches Myrtle Beach, S.C., on September 14, 2018.
Flooding and a strong storm surge prompted more than 90 calls to the emergency operation center in Craven County, N.C., for residents trapped in vehicles and homes, spokeswoman Amber Parker said.
The area is contending with rising floodwaters as Hurricane Florence brings storm surge and rain into the low-lying town.
"I about jumped out of my skin", he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday morning.
Their graphics look like something out of a video game, featuring a reporter in the center of a screen and water towering overhead to show how high the water can get.
Rescue efforts have been widespread across the city and teams are still searching for residents. Restoring power to all customers could take weeks, it said.
The storm was 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. Significant weakening was expected over the weekend. "Everybody laughs at the fact that this storm got downgraded. but I've never seen tree devastation this bad."Afterwards, I'm going to drink a bottle of whiskey and take a two-day nap, but right now I'm walking the neighborhood and making sure my neighbors are fine, because nobody can get in here". Think of the people who are affected by that".
Teia Cherry and her family thought they could ride out Florence, now a tropical storm, at home.
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