The Triangle still has a good possibility of seeing 50 miles per hour or higher winds. Ocean water flowed between homes and on to streets on the Outer Banks; waves crashed against wooden fishing piers.
Portions of a boat dock and boardwalk are destroyed by powerful wind and waves as Hurricane Florence arrives September 13, 2018, in Atlantic Beach, N.C.
The fresh water flooding will also be a major issue as the storm moves inland. More than 1,300 flights along the US East Coast were cancelled through Friday.
The impact of Florence will be widespread, with destructive winds, life-threatening storm surge, risky surf, torrential rainfall, flooding and the potential for tornadoes.
A siege of hurricane-force winds, heavy rain, flooding and storm surge is hammering the Carolina coast as Florence is expected to soon make landfall in North Carolina, causing a life-threatening storm surge.
A buoy off the North Carolina coast recorded waves almost nine metres high as Florence churned toward shore. Hurricane-force winds extended 130 kilometres from its centre, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 315 kilometres.
More ominously, forecasters said the onslaught would last for hours and hours because Florence was barely creeping along at 6 mph (9 kph) and still drawing energy from the ocean.
The hurricane knocked a basketball-sized hole in the wall of the Triangle Motor causing cinder blocks to crumble and the roof to fall down - while residents were still in their rooms.
On the forecast track, Isaac should move farther away from Lesser Antilles today, and then move across the eastern and central Caribbean Sea through the weekend.
Florence, set to make landfall on Friday, was expected to cover nearly all of North Carolina in several feet of water, State Governor Roy Cooper told reporters.
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City spokeswoman Colleen Roberts said in an interview with the AP around 10:30 a.m. Friday that about 120 others were still awaiting help.
The poorly organized, 45-mph storm is not expected to strengthen but should maintain its tropical storm strength for the next few days.
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.
Storm surge of 13 feet on top of a high tide at 7 feet could overwhelm Carolina Beach.
It's unclear exactly how many people fled ahead of the storm, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out. "A USGS gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, recently recorded 6.3 feet of inundation".
About 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches, the National Weather Service said.
Russ Lewis covers his eyes from a gust of wind and a blast of sand as Hurricane Florence approaches Myrtle Beach, South Carolina early Friday.
The storm's intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to around 144 km/h by nightfall.
About midday on Thursday (local time), Spanish moss blew sideways in the trees as the winds increased in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City.
Storm surges could push as far as two miles (3 km) inland, NHC said, while heavy rains were forecast to extend into the Appalachian Mountains, affecting parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.