It was downgraded to a category two storm with 105mph (165km/h) winds, and the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said it does not expect much change in the strength before the eye of Florence makes landfall.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images A man tries to cross the street during the heavy rain of outer bands of Hurricane Florence in New Bern, North Carolina.
"This storm is relentless and excruciating", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told CNN late on Friday.
WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) Blowing ashore with howling 90 miles per hour (155 kph) winds, Florence splintered buildings, trapped hundreds of people and swamped entire communities along the Carolina coast Friday in what could be just the opening act in a watery, two-part, slow-motion disaster. Exactly how bad the storm surge will be with Hurricane Florence remains to be seen, but meteorologists for NBC News are predicting that it could be up to 13 feet-and that is higher than Hurricane Maria, which brought a storm surge of around nine feet to parts of Puerto Rico. "I am frightened about what's coming. We're able", he said.
At the time of writing, over 116,000 people were watching the storm approach the tower, which "is a privately owned surplus Coast Guard Light Station", that also doubles as a "unique adventure bed & breakfast" when the weather is more appropriate. Millions were expected to lose power from the storm and restoration could take weeks. Some roads were already impassable in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
In Murrell's Inlet, South Carolina, Mikey Zalloum of Uncle Mikey's Brick Oven Pizza sweated as he worked feverishly to make pies Thursday night.
"Mandatory" evacuations in coastal Virginia and the Carolinas have been underway for days in advance of Hurricane Florence, but some residents have chosen to remain in their homes.
At least 12,000 people had taken refuge in 126 emergency shelters, Cooper said, with more facilities being opened.
Hurricane Florence strikes but conditions set to worsen
Its top sustained winds have dropped to 70 miles per hour , and it's at a near standstill, moving west at just 3 miles per hour . A mother and her infant were killed when a tree fell on their house in Wilmington , police said.
The size of a hurricane's storm surge does not factor into the category of a storm.
The NHC said in its 2 p.m. ET update that Florence is now a Category 2 storm, but it noted that the storm is quite large in diameter. Heavy rains were forecast to extend into the Appalachian Mountains, affecting parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.
Officials in several states have declared states of emergency, including in the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland, where coastal areas are still recovering from summer storms.
McMaster and state officials urged residents eager to return home after the hurricane to be patient, stressing Florence will be a long-term event. It had long lines on Thursday.
She said the momentum the storm has generated on its long trip across the Atlantic won't go away just "because the winds decrease a couple miles an hour".
Storm surge isn't the only worry associated with the storm, either.
Instead, they drove 240km inland to his mother's house in Durham.
"I've never been one to leave for a storm but this one kind of had me spooked", Epperson said. "I've never been one to leave for a storm but this one kind of had me spooked".