The centre of the hurricane's eye came ashore at about 7:15am EDT on Friday near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, North Carolina, with sustained winds of 150 km/hour, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. "We got thrown into mailboxes, houses, trees", said Holt, who had stayed at home because of a doctor's appointment that was later cancelled. The child's father was transported to the hospital with injuries.
Onslow County spokesman Cornelius Jordan said some visitors at the Triangle Motor Inn were able to drive away on their own, but emergency personnel had to take others to a safe location. When they got to the home, the woman was deceased, Chad McEwen, assistant county manager for Pender County, said.
A fourth person was killed while plugging in a generator in Lenoir County, north of Wilmington, WITN-TV reported. Another man in the county who was checking on his dogs outside was killed in what his family thought was a wind-related death Friday morning, emergency officials said. By 2 p.m., more than 658,000 customers were without power across North Carolina, and the Triangle had begun to experience outages. It was expected to slowly move southwest into SC before turning north, forecasters said.
"The storm is going to continue its violent grind across our state for days", Cooper warned residents at a news conference.
Hundreds of people needed to be rescued after becoming trapped in their homes by a storm surge of up to 10 feet (three meters) in New Bern, a town of 30,000 in North Carolina at the confluence of the Trent and Neuse rivers. They had heeded officials' warnings that the storm was treacherous, with record-setting rains and storm surges not seen in North Carolina in decades.
For people living inland in the Carolinas, however, the moment of maximum peril from flash flooding could arrive days later, because it takes time for rainwater to drain into rivers and for those streams to crest. Calls for help multiplied as the wind picked up and the tide rolled in.
But the size of the storm meant the path didn't really matter. Expert scientists, however, had said they were anxious about Brunswick because of scant public information about its readiness.
By mid-afternoon, the winds had dropped to 120 km/h and the center was moving west at 6 miles per hour (10 kph), the NHC said, and parts of North and SC would get as much as one metre of rain. With Florence, "we're looking at the same amount of rainfall in three days".
SC ordered the mandatory evacuation of one million coastal residents while North Carolina announced an evacuation of the Outer Banks, a popular tourist destination. Even in the midst of a storm, these feeding sites must report leaks, she said.
"It was pretty bad".
"As a state, we have put our head in the sand", Representative Pricey Harrison said. "We are stuck in the attic". Besides federal and state emergency crews, rescuers were being helped by volunteers from the "Cajun Navy" who also turned up in Houston during Hurricane Harvey to carry out water rescues. The Neuse River rose rapidly, overcoming the streets of New Bern.
Authorities in New Bern said more than 100 people had to be saved from floods and that the downtown area was underwater.
In Morehead City, Brooke Kittrell rode out the storm Thursday and Friday with her boyfriend aboard their docked boat, hoping it didn't break loose and slam something.
"I honestly cried", Kittrell said. "For overall damage, it would be hard, at the end of the day, I think, to find a rival for this storm".
The video below, taken in Wilmington, North Carolina, shows a large tree being split in half in Florence's winds.
A state of emergency has been declared in five coastal states - North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia - as well as the USA capital Washington.
Florence was one of two major storms threatening millions of people on opposite sides of the world.