By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina early Friday rapping the coastline with maximum winds of 90 miles (150 kilometers) per hour and torrential downpours as it pushed a storm surge far inland.
The Category 1 hurricane came ashore near Wrightsville Beach at 7:15 a.m., and was dumping as much as 3 inches (2.5 centimeters) of rain per hour. Hurricane-force winds extend 80 miles (128 kilometers) out from the storm's center.
Florence is expected to hover over North and South Carolina for up to a day, continually pounding the southern states as it creeps along at a mere 6 miles per hour.
The National Weather Service warned of "catastrophic" flooding with Florence shaping up to dump as much as 40 inches (50-100 centimeters) of water before moving along from North and South Carolina.
"This storm will be a marathon vs. a sprint," the agency said in a tweet.
"In addition to the ongoing, dangerous storm surge and flash flooding, will be a long-term river flood threat WELL INLAND as very heavy rainfall continues to fall in the coming days."
More than 455,000 people are already without power, emergency officials said.
Florence is expected to move inland before curving northeastward towards West Virginia and on to the northeastern U.S. early next week.
More than 1 million people were ordered to evacuate ahead of Florence's arrival. First responders were already working to rescue those who chose not to heed the directives.