The National Hurricane Center (NHC) downgraded it to a tropical storm on Friday, but warned it would dump as much as 30 to 40 inches (76-102 cm) of rain on the southeastern coast of North Carolina and part of northeastern SC.
Tropical Storm Florence is practically stalled over the Carolinas and the monster storm could dump drenching rains of up to 3½ feet (1 meter).
A new 5-minute video from the space station shows Florence coming ashore in the USA for the first time.
As of 2:00 pm (1800 GMT), maximum sustained winds had weakened to 75 miles per hour (120 kph) but the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned Carolina residents to be alert for life-threatening storm surges and "catastrophic freshwater flooding".
Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles from its center.
Florence is anticipated to move slowly over eastern South Carolina Friday night through Saturday night.
National Hurricane Center: Florence about to make landfall in N. Carolina causing life-threatening storm surge.
More than 360 people were rescued as of midafternoon Friday, but another 140 were still waiting for help, city spokeswoman Colleen Roberts told the Associated Press.
The NHC described Florence as a "slow mover" and said it had the potential to dump historic amounts of rainfall on North and SC, as much as 40 inches (one meter) in some places.
Hurricane Florence strengthens to Category 2 storm
By evening, the storm was centered about 1,170 miles (1,880 km) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, the NHC said. Henry McMaster said, adding that his declaration would allow state agencies to deploy assets quickly to the coast .
- The outer bands of Hurricane Florence, which has downgraded to a Category 2 storm, have reached the Carolina coastline as of Thursday morning.
"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the city of New Bern tweeted. His mom remembers Hurricane Hazel, when the water did not rise as high as his fifth step, where it was Thursday night.
The US National Weather Service has released a flash flood warning as authorities were scrambling to reach almost 150 people now stranded.
North Carolina alone is forecast to get 9.6 trillion gallons (36 trillion liters), enough to cover the Tar Heel state to a depth of about 10 inches (25 centimeters).
Wind gusts of up to 100 miles per hour were reported at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, the hurricane center said. The storm knocked out power to more than 890,000 homes and businesses, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the U.S. electrical grid.
More than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing cinderblock motel at the height of the storm. "We got thrown into mailboxes, houses, trees", said Holt, who had stayed at home because of a doctor's appointment that was later canceled.
The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Florence has finally made landfall near Wrightsville, North Carolina.
Officials say two people died in Lenoir County.
Still, he said: "I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth".
"We've rescued over 100 people in New Bern, N.C.; people from Jacksonville, N.C., had to rescued from a hotel", Cooper said, describing efforts to save people in towns north of Wilmington where high floods have already hit.