More than 300,000 without power as Hurricane Florence batters North Carolina

Hurricane Florence lumbered ashore in North Carolina with howling 90 miles per hour winds and terrifying storm surge early Friday, ripping apart buildings and knocking out power to a half-million homes and businesses as it settled in for what could be a long and extraordinarily destructive drenching.

At 4 a.m., the National Hurricane Center said Florence's eyewall was beginning to hit the North Carolina coast.

The rain has turned sideways, rivers are swollen and flood waters are swamping streets as the fury of Hurricane Florence threatens the Carolina's with life-threatening conditions.

Operations at the ports of Wilmington, Charleston, South Carolina, and Norfolk in Virginia, which together handled 23 per cent of East Coast imports in 2017, have been disrupted by the storm.

A member of the U.S. Army walks through floodwaters near the Union Point Park Complex as Hurricane Florence comes ashore in New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 13, 2018.

In Hampton Roads, a tropical storm warning is in effect from Poquoson to the Virginia-North Carolina border, including the lower James and York rivers. Residents should expect to see higher tides than usual on the James and York rivers, as well as possible flooding and beach erosion.

Roughly 1.5 million people were ordered to evacuate in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Heavy rainfall could leave nearly all of North Carolina in several feet of water, it's feared.

The center of the storm is expected to make landfall on Friday in southeast North Carolina.

Hurricane Florence Rocks Wooden Pier in Nags Head
The Charleston area will see winds near tropical storm strength of 40 miles per hour and somewhere between 3 to 6 inches of rain. Sixteen kilometres away in the city of Wilmington , wind gusts were stirring up frothy white caps into the Cape Fear River.

Gov. Roy Cooper requested additional federal disaster assistance in anticipation of what his office called "historic major damage" across the state. Here's why this storm threatens not only the coast but millions of people inland.

More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm began buffeting the coast, and more than 12,000 were in shelters.

On Thursday evening, Florence's forward movement was just 5mph.

Hurricane-force winds will bring down trees and damage homes and businesses.

Some Carolinians have expressed frustration after evacuating their homes for a storm that was later downgraded - but officials have pushed back at suggestions that Florence's threat has been exaggerated.

One climate model is predicting that as much as 11 trillion gallons of rain will fall on North Carolina in the coming week - an amount that's enough to fill the Empire State Building 40 times over. "We just want prayers from everyone".

Coastal streets were inundated with ocean water, causing damage to dozens of homes and businesses, officials said.

The center downgraded Florence to a Category 1 hurricane, but warned that it still carried "very unsafe winds". After criticism for its response in Puerto Rico to last year's Hurricane Maria, which officials there said was responsible for 3,000 deaths, Trump has vowed a vigorous response to Florence and defended his handling of Maria.

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