Tens of thousands were without power.
Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m.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. Its forward movement was 6 miles per hour (9 kph).
It is expected to move across parts of south-eastern 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. Heavy rainfall began after dark.
"Heavy rain has been occurring in and around Oriental, North Carolina, where 20.37 inches of rainfall has been measured thus far", the National Hurricane Center said in an update. Up to eleven-foot storm surges are expected, enough to overwhelm most of the homes here.
Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said Florence eventually could strike as a Category 1 with winds less than 100 miles per hour, but that's still enough to cause at least $1 billion in damage.
The Governor's Office has activated the North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund, which has been used in previous disasters, to accept donations to support North Carolina's response to Hurricane Florence. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire. The hurricane had the brothers slightly anxious of storm surge, but they didn't believe there would be horrific damage. For those wishing to track Florence's devastation from miles away, PBS NewsHour has compiled this guide of sources that we will be closely monitoring as the storm progresses. "The larger and the slower the storm is, the greater the threat and the impact - and we have that".
Florence was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticised as slow and unprepared previous year for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the death toll was put at almost 3,000.
"The center of Florence will approach the coasts of North and SC later today, then move near or over the coast of southern North Carolina and eastern SC in the hurricane warning area tonight and Friday, " the hurricane center said.
Around midday, Spanish moss blew sideways in the trees as the winds increased in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City.
"Very eerie, the wind howling, the rain blowing sideways, debris flying", said Orsa, who lives nearby and feared splintering trees would pummel her house. "Because it's Mother Nature".
Utility companies said millions were expected to lose power and that restoring it could take weeks.
Officials urged residents there to take shelter at the highest points of their homes, including rooftops.
"I ask all Georgians to join me in praying for the safety of our people and all those in the path of Hurricane Florence", Deal said.
"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the city tweeted during the height of the storm. "Whether you have a house or not, when the storm comes it will bring everyone together".
"About 11:30, 12 (midnight), the water came into the house".
"It's important to note that the two individuals in the background are walking on concrete, and Mike Seidel is trying to maintain his footing on wet grass, after reporting on-air until 1am this morning and is undoubtedly exhausted", the network said. Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm's aftermath, it said.
Just south and west of Carteret, new flash flood emergencies were issued in bordering Onslow and Duplin counties around 3:30 a.m. National Hurricane Center meteorologist Joel Cline said the mountains will wring water out of the moist tropical air: "It's like running into a wall, and that moisture has to go somewhere, and it goes up, creates rain, and you have torrential rain in that area".