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"But I think we're ready".

The Category 1 storm was downgraded late Thursday, but continued to carry maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour and crawled along at just 6 miles per hour. Mary and Jeff Holland said they had just replaced their roof after Hurricane Matthew came through in 2016 and brought wind damage. Some scattered showers and storms will be possible on Sunday, but rainfall totals should not go over one inch. More than 500,000 homes and businesses are without electricity in North and SC.

The storm is expected to bring catastrophic flooding to the Carolinas and bring more than 20 inches of rain, including 40 inches in some part.

Along the coast, floodwaters have been hitting inland towns near rivers that normally discharge into the ocean.

Craven County public information officer Amber Parker says the storm surge has caused flooding in some downtown New Bern businesses, and Union Park is underwater. Forecasters said the onslaught could last for days, leaving a wide area under water from both heavy downpours and rising seas. Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it was unclear how many did. "People who live in New Bern have experienced hurricanes before, but it has been a long time since we have experienced something like this".

The No. 1 mission right now, Cooper said, is to save lives.

"Currently ~150 awaiting rescue in New Bern", City Hall said on Twitter.

Nearly 20,000 people had taken refuge in 157 emergency shelters, Cooper said.

Hurricane Florence approaches the U.S. Southeast Coast, where it is expected to make landfall on the border between North and SC this morning (Sept. 14), according to NOAA. Hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles (130 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds reached out to 195 miles (315 kilometers).

In Wilmington, residents who decided not to evacuate were lining up to get ice from a vending machine - US$2 for a 7.2kg (16 pound) bag.

"We had pretty high floodwaters up until the early morning hours", Risty-Davis tells NPR's Morning Edition.

Near the beach in Wilmington, a Waffle House restaurant, part of a chain with a reputation for staying open during disasters, had no plan to close even if power was lost, and there were lines to get in on Thursday evening.

Over half a million homes and businesses were without power by mid morning in North and SC and utility companies said millions were expected to lose power and restoration efforts could take weeks. The agency adds that people trapped by flooding should "never enter attics or crawl spaces".

A weather station at a community college recorded a 100 miles per hour wind gust, and forecasters tweeted that a 91 miles per hour wind gust slammed into Wilmington's airport, surpassing the power of Hurricane Fran two decades ago. At the city's airport, the wind was gusting at 91 miles per hour.

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) - Forecasters say the center of Hurricane Florence is hovering just inland near Cape Fear, N.C.

The Category 1 hurricane's center is expected to crash onshore midmorning Friday, then linger for another whole day, unloading flash flooding, pounding wind and towering storm surges at least through Saturday. In its 7 a.m. ET update, the National Hurricane Center said a gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, recently recorded 6.1 feet above normal water levels.

The storm's center is crawling over SC, but many of its main rain bands still are over already-saturated North Carolina - setting up what may be days of flooding for some communities.