And cameras aboard the International Space Station managed to catch incredible footage just a few minutes after the storm's landfall. It hit the coast as a Category 1 storm with 90 miles per hour maximum sustained winds, the NWS said.
But the size of the storm meant the path didn't really matter. One of the hardest hit areas so far is New Bern, North Carolina, where about 100 people are waiting to be rescued after more than 10 feet of powerful storm surge flooded the small city.
Almost 900,000 homes and businesses were without power in the Carolinas early on Friday, utility officials said. The core was also about 60 miles (95 kilometers) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina.
"The water kept rising and kept rising", he said.
Billy Sample, a resident stuck in the town of Carolina Beach, North Carolina, said Friday night: "The height of the storm didn't feel as bad as it is now".
In New Bern, North Carolina, the storm surge overwhelmed the town of 30,000, located at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers.
As the giant, 400-mile-wide hurricane pounded away, it unloaded heavy rain, flattened trees, chewed up roads and knocked out power to more than 600,000 homes and businesses. "People who live in New Bern have experienced hurricanes before, but it has been a long time since we have experienced something like this". Forecasters said "catastrophic" freshwater flooding was expected along waterways far from the coast of the Carolinas. The hurricane had the brothers slightly anxious of storm surge, but they didn't believe there would be horrific damage.
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On Friday, coastal streets in the Carolinas flowed with frothy ocean water, and pieces of torn-apart buildings flew through the air.
"I've been through hurricanes before", he says. One team from Maryland helped with about 40 rescues in New Bern starting Thursday, member Mitchell Rusland said.
Dawn Baldwin Gibson, 47, a minister and private school founder who lives on a farm closer to the coast in nearby Pamlico County and runs a Facebook page about weather in eastern North Carolina, had evacuated to New Bern to stay with family, thinking it would be a safer spot. Many state museums and other attractions are also closed. Calls for help multiplied as the wind picked up and the tide rolled in. Local media said she had suffered a heart attack.
Once a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 140 miles per hour (225 kph), the hurricane was downgraded to a Category 1 on Thursday night.
National Weather Service forecasters said the storm would roam along the coast for at least two more days before reaching Columbia, South Carolina, early Sunday.
Cooper said the Neuse River had seen storm surge as high as 10 feet (three meters) and the amount of rainfall was a "1,000-year event".
Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of an environmental disaster from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.
"The evacuation was countywide, but since we're not in a flood zone, we weren't really anxious about that", she told VOA.
President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump stands by tweets questioning Puerto Rico death toll: "NO WAY" Trump pushes back on ex-lawyer putting out book, cites "attorney-client privilege" Wealthiest Republican supporter in OH quits party MORE plans to travel to areas affected by Hurricane Florence next week once conditions improve and his visit won't disrupt recovery efforts, the White House said Friday.