At least 88,000 people were without power in North Carolina with the brunt of the storm yet to come, according to the state's emergency management agency.
The US east coast girded for a battering from Hurricane Florence late Thursday as the monster storm's outer edge began lashing the Carolinas with heavy wind and rain, which forecasters warned could trigger life-threatening floods even as it further weakened.
Duke Energy said it would close a pair of nuclear power reactors at its Brunswick plant on the Cape Fear River, about four miles from Southport, N.C. The company said its procedures required closing the plants when facing sustained 75 mph winds, even though the plants were created to withstand winds of more than 200 mph and a storm surge of 22 feet.
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.
About 10 million people live in the path of the slow-moving storm and more than 1 million had been ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia, jamming westbound roads and highways for miles. "We're looking at tropical-storm force winds in our area for several hours, and that can cause a lot of damage - not to mention the rain we're looking at". "If you're told to go, you need to go". "We are going to be very very very limited in terms of responding. The larger and the slower the storm is, the greater the threat and the impact - and we have that".
As of the 7:45 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, the storm's center made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.
"I just don't want to leave and take a chance and not be able to get back in", Green said.
Florence was downgraded overnight to a category one hurricane - with 90mph (145kmh) winds - but forecasters have warned that conditions will only get more lethal as the storm pushes ashore in the early hours of Friday morning.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent".
Some areas in the Myrtle Beach/Wilmington area could see as much as 40 inches of rain with storm surges between 9 and 13 feet, overwhelming many beachfront areas and low-lying islands. We are more inland from the coast.
Spanish moss waved in the trees as the winds picked up in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City.
Officials say Hurricane Florence could bring not only flooding but also landslides to SC.
Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump tweeted that he had just been briefed on the storm and "FEMA, First Responders and Law Enforcement are supplied and ready".
The company said as many as three-fourths of its 4 million customers in North Carolina and SC could lose power.
He said: "I could be wrong".
A buoy off the North Carolina coast recorded waves almost 30 feet high as Florence churned toward shore. The National Weather Service measured storm surge in New Bern at 10 feet (3 meters) deep.
Two of them, Itagia VeaVea, 25, and Karen Tominiko, 19, aren't as anxious as the others because they're used to hurricanes in American Samoa.