Hurricane Florence's onslaught threatens disaster in North Carolina

A man walks past a boarded up business before Hurricane Florence comes ashore in Wilmington North Carolina

A man walks past a boarded up business before Hurricane Florence comes ashore in Wilmington North Carolina

- The number of NC residents without power is now over 150,000, according to the Department of Public Safety.

The powerful storm already has inundated coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power, and forecasters say that "catastrophic" freshwater flooding is expected over portions of the Carolinas as Hurricane Florence inches closer to the U.S. East Coast.

Hurricane-force winds began whipping North Carolina as federal emergency management officials warned that the hurricane remained a "very risky storm" capable of wreaking havoc along a wide swathe of the coast.

More than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate over the past few days, and the homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions.

SC officials say more than 400,000 people have evacuated the state's coast and more than 4,000 people have taken refuge in shelters as Hurricane Florence approaches.

"It is scary. When somebody tells you something like that, it's my cue to get out". "We are going to be very very very limited in terms of responding". Hurricane force winds extended 80 miles from the centre of the storm, while tropical storm force winds extended up to 195 miles.

The expected high winds and slow movement of the hurricane as it comes ashore are likely to make rescue efforts in flooded areas challenging, senior US Defence Department officials say.

"I just don't want to leave and take a chance and not be able to get back in", Green said.

But the storm still carried "very risky winds", the Center added.

A camera at the Frying Pan Tower located 34 miles off the coast of Cape Fear, North Carolina has been livestreaming a view of the Atlantic Ocean since May, and is powering through the storm to dutifully record an American flag over the rising waves. Here's why this storm threatens not only the coast but millions of people inland.

Associated Press story by Johanthan Drew.

Around midday, Spanish moss blew sideways in the trees as the winds increased in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City.

"I was feeling fine until I woke up this morning and this is a ghost town", said Kristin Beard, a 40-year-old Myrtle Beach marketer.

In some counties, almost 1 in 3 people live below the poverty line.

The hurricane was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as sluggish and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico past year.

RMS Event Response Manager Tom Sabbatelli said Thursday that though Florence had weakened considerably, the storm was broader because of that weakening.

Duke Energy Corp, the biggest utility in the area with over 4 million customers, estimated the storm could cause between 1 million and 3 million outages.

A slow motion over eastern SC is forecast Friday night through Saturday night.

A buoy off the North Carolina coast recorded waves almost nine metres high as Florence churned toward shore.

With gusts upward of 110 miles per hour already battering the Carolina coastline, storm surges have already started to destroy homes and overflow onto roads.

Utility crews had largely stopped stringing power lines during the peak of the storm and said they would not resume restoring power until wind speeds subsided and flood waters receded, which could take several areas in the hardest-hit areas.