It is now a tropical storm with top sustained winds of 90 miles per hour (150 kph), but a gust of 112 miles per hour (180 kph) was reported just offshore.
Florence peaked at a terrifying Category 4 with top winds of 140 mph over warm ocean water before making landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m.at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line.
Hurricane-force winds were extending out up to 80 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extended up to 195 miles, the center said.
As Hurricane Storm Florence lashed through the Carolinas with howling winds and heavy rain, one reporter was captured attempting to keep it together as winds appeared to lash at him, but was mocked when two people were seen walking behind him with little difficulty.
This story will be updated with additional information momentarily.
Florence flattened trees, crumbled roads and the assault wasn't anywhere close to being over, with the siege in the Carolinas expected to last all weekend.
"Remember: Most storm deaths occur from drowning in fresh water, often in cars", he said.
That's just the number of customers without power in the Carolinas.
The Miami-based center had said earlier Friday Florence's arrival would come with "catastrophic" fresh water flooding over portions of the Carolinas.
A mandatory evacuation order has been put in place for anyone who lives within a mile of the banks of North Carolina's Cape Fear River and Little River. The governor's office said a man was electrocuted while trying to connect extension cords in the rain.
A mother and her baby died when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington, North Carolina.
That's the new North Carolina record for most rainfall from a single tropical system.
Hundreds of residents have already been plucked to safety from flooded homes in the North Carolina counties of Beaufort and Craven. Roberts said numerous residents live near the Neuse and Trent rivers.
Video from The Associated Press (above) shows the men finding two barking dogs on the porch of an empty home surrounded by water.
The hurricane center said the storm will eventually break up over the southern Appalachians and make a right hook to the northeast, its rainy remnants moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England by the middle of next week.
The small town of Hamlet in Richmond County, North Carolina, for example, is full of toxic emitters: within its borders are a chicken processing plant, an energy company and a wood pellet manufacturer that broke ground within the past few years.
More than 100 people were rescued and up to 75 more were awaiting rescue on Saturday morning, according to a town official.