Florence is also expected to lose speed and "hover" once it reaches the coast, which will intensify the impacts of its heavy rainfall and storm surges, Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center (NHC), said in a Facebook Live update earlier today.
A family enjoys the surf ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Oak Island, North Carolina.
Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7.15am at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line, coming ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.
Though Florence won't be making landfall until Friday, tropical-storm-force winds - 39 to 73 miles per hour (63 to 117 km/h) - will begin whipping through coastal regions as early as tomorrow, making it exceptionally unsafe to be outside, Graham said. Forecasters said Florence is expected to blow ashore late Thursday or early Friday, even as President Donald Trump has declared states of emergency for North and SC and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid. Similar declarations were made earlier in North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
The hurricane has claimed its first victims as it crashed into North Carolina, making landfall near Wrightsville Beach. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect from north of Duck, North Carolina to Cape Charles Light, Virginia for the Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort, and from Edisto Beach South Carolina to South Santee River, South Carolina.
The White House said on Friday President Donald Trump would travel to the region next week unless his visit would disrupt cleanup and rescue efforts. The storm will make landfall at the Carolinas Friday.
Tens of thousands of homes and businesses could be flooded in North Carolina alone, Governor Cooper said.
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Forecasters say the biggest danger is the water as the storm surge along the coastline and the prospect of one to three-and-a-half feet of rain over the coming days could trigger catastrophic flooding inland.
About 10 million people could be affected by the storm, and more than one million were ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia.
Downpours and flooding would be especially severe, lasting for days, if the storm stalls over land. "There's nobody left to work".
And there's "a huge difference" in the size and type of damage Florence inflicts if it stays 50 miles (80 kilometers) off shore versus heading inland immediately, Landsea said. "You can't stop Mother Nature". "I want to get them as far away as possible".
In Jacksonville, North Carolina, more than 60 people were evacuated from a hotel after part of the roof collapsed, city officials said.
"I see the beach communities being inundated with water and destruction that will be pretty, pretty epic in nature".
Florence crashed into the Carolina coast on Friday, felling trees, dumping almost three feet of rain on some spots and leading to the death of four people before it was downgraded to a tropical storm still capable of wreaking havoc.