Rescue workers in North Carolina meanwhile were scrambling to save people stranded in their homes.
The effects of Hurricane Florence have already arrived on the East Coast of the United States, where massive floods have already begun and as much asthe National Hurricane Center forecasts 40 inches of rain and 11 feet of flooding from the storm surge.
According to CNN, the hurricane hit the east coast of the USA with 90-mph winds and relentless rain. If it follows that track, the storm could hit Maryland from the south and west early next week - with the strongest impact in the western counties.
And as the storm pushes inland, it could dump 6-10 inches as far inland as Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina as well as in Roanoke, Virginia, he said.
Florence had been downgraded to a Category One hurricane before landfall, but forecasters say it is still capable of delivering a lethal punch.
"It truly is really about the whole size of this storm", National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said.
The advisory read: "This rainfall will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding". While winds blow onshore Friday through Monday, rainfall runoff will pile on top of the storm surge in some locations, particularly around inlets where rivers drain into the Atlantic Ocean, like Cape Fear and Jacksonville.
While the storm's winds will abate as it moves inland, they could continue to gust to tropical-storm-force - especially near its core.
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The top wind gusts were reported in Raleigh are at 39 miles per hour.
At 5 p.m. Thursday, the center of Florence was 100 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and 155 miles east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
As of 5 p.m. Friday, forecasters say Florence is now a tropical storm but will continue to threaten North and SC with powerful winds and catastrophic freshwater flooding.
Tom Balance, owner of a seafood restaurant in New Bern, had decided against evacuating his home and was soon alarmed to see waves coming off the Neuse and the water getting higher and higher.
It stated: "A few tornadoes are possible in eastern North Carolina today". Through Sunday evening, more than 20 inches of rain could fall in southeast North Carolina and far northeast SC on top of what has already fallen.
Thousands of people have taken temporary shelter in converted schools and community centers, while those who have ignored orders have been warned that rescuers will not be able to reach them at the height of the storm. Hundreds more had to be rescued elsewhere from rising waters, and others could only hold out hope someone would come for them.
Hurricane Florence has arrived in North Carolina, bringing massive floods and damage caused by heavy rain and an enormous storm surge.
About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than 1 million were ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia, jamming westbound roads and highways for miles.