The Hurricane Center forecasts that Florence will approach the coasts of North and SC later on Thursday, then move near or over the coast of southern North Carolina and eastern SC on Thursday night and Friday. The storm could drop up to 40 inches of rain, causing "catastrophic" floods and a "life-threatening" situation, the NHC said.
"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", New Bern city officials said on Twitter.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said the storm was "wreaking havoc" on the coast and could wipe out entire communities as it makes its "violent grind across our state for days".
About150 people were awaiting rescue in New Bern, N.C. early Friday morning, and multiple news outlets report some 60 people had to be evacuated from a motel in Jacksonville, N.C. overnight after it sustained structural damage as the Category 1 hurricane made landfall. "People who live in New Bern have experienced hurricanes before, but it has been a long time since we have experienced something like this". A man electrocuted while plugging in a generator during a heavy rain and another knocked down by wind were among the other casualties reported from the monster storm lashing the Southeast.
The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of up to 21 miles per hour on September 14 morning in Columbia.
To put the rain in perspective, Wilmington's three-day rainfall record was 19.66 inches set in 2010, said Jordan Baker, a meteorologist with the NWS Wilmington office. Rescues are already underway of both people and their beloved pets.
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. "If the number seems really insane high, you always have to have some suspicion until we can actually get out and verify it".
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.
Florence also blew down trees, including one that went through the roof of Kevin DiLoreto's home in Wilmington.
A tree crashed into Kevin DiLoreto's home in Wilmington, where all roads leading to his neighbourhood were blocked by fallen trees.
"It's insane", he said in a phone interview.
Neighbour Adam Sparks said he noticed emergency responders arrive at the house across the street right around when his power went out and the storm was intensifying.
Utility companies said millions were expected to lose power and that restoring it could take weeks. It is 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 is expected over the weekend.
More than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and state of Virginia had been urged to evacuate. Almost 2,100 flights have been canceled through Saturday.
According to a report from the J.P. Morgan Chase Institute, extreme weather events like the one now battering the Carolinas and Virginia can have far-reaching effects on consumers' wallets, impacting their spending for months after the storm has cleared. Super Typhoon Mangkhut was expected to hit an area in the Philippines on Saturday that would affect 5.2 million people.