Location of Florence: By 7:35 a.m. Friday, the hurricane was about 5 miles (55 km) east of Wilmington and was crawling at 6 mph (9 kmh).
Maue said Florence could dump about 18 trillion gallons of rain over a week on North Carolina, South Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland.
By early afternoon, its winds had weakened to 75 miles per hour, just barely a hurricane and well below the storm's terrifying Category 4 peak of 140 miles per hour earlier in the week.
The storm is about to make landfall in North Carolina, the center said.
Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, N.C., at 7:15 a.m. ET, creeping slowly ashore - but bringing strong winds, a massive storm surge and a rain system that will soak much of the state and SC for days.
With tropical storm-force winds swirling 350 miles (560 kilometers) wide, Florence continued deluging the Carolinas on Saturday morning after pushing surging seas far ashore.
In total, more than 10 million people face "life-threatening storm surge and hurricane-force winds" from Florence, the NHC said.
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The center said the threat of freshwater flooding will increase over the next several days.
A North Carolina city says about 70 people have been rescued from a hotel whose structural integrity is being threatened by Hurricane Florence.
At least 12,000 people have taken refuge in 126 emergency shelters, Cooper said, with more facilities being opened.
"A basketball sized hole was found in a corner room by an Officer", officials said.
In New Bern, Sarah Risty-Davis is one of the residents who opted not to follow a mandatory evacuation order that was issued three days ago.
Meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com calculated that 34 million people in the USA could get at least 3 inches of rain from Florence, with more than 5.7 million people probably receiving at least a foot.
The Miami-based center had said earlier Friday Florence's arrival would come with "catastrophic" fresh water flooding over portions of the Carolinas.
Travel on the state's roads has grown "extremely hazardous", said Jim Trogdon, the North Carolina transportation secretary, who warned in a late-morning briefing that a 500- to 1,000-year "flood event is anticipated". Mayor Dana Outlaw told The Charlotte Observer about 200 had been rescued by 5 a.m. Residents reached out for help through the night by phone and social media.
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"Currently - 150 awaiting rescue in New Bern", City Hall said on Twitter. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU".
Eye wall of Hurricane Florence onshore in North Carolina. "Lots of water, lots of wind, lots of storm surge".
The National Hurricane Centre said a gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, reported 6.3 feet (1.92 metres) of inundation.
Rain water flooded streets are pictured as Hurricane Florence moves into the Carolinas in Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018.
"This rainfall will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding", the National Hurricane Center briefing said.
The now Category 1 storm's intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to 90 miles per hour (135 kph) by nightfall.
The homes of about 10 million are under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions.
Hurricane Florence has deluged USA coastal regions and left tens of thousands without power - with forecasters stating conditions will only worsen as the huge storm barrels inland.
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Waves almost 30ft high were record off the carolina coast as Florence churned toward shore.