NORTH CAROLINA, U.S. - With dire warnings being issued through the day and residents in several areas evacuating, forecasters declared on Thursday that Hurricane Florence had arrived, as the storm hit the North Carolina coast.
While the storm - that was formed off the African coast - was still centered miles from shore, it packed strong winds, heavy rainfall and brought with it fears of a deadly 11-foot storm surge.
With winds of 105 mph, Hurricane Florence - a dangerous Category 2 hurricane, brought rain and wind along the North Carolina Coast.
Forecasters are expecting the storm to make landfall near or along the coast of the Carolinas either overnight or on Friday.
Authorities tracking the storm's movement closely issued several dire warnings - the most dangerous one of them all was that Florence is threatening a deadly storm surge.
Fears of the store producing "inland rainfall flooding, life-threatening storm surge and destructive winds," along with hurricane-force winds, that could persist several hours after the landfall expected near Wilmington.
On Thursday evening, the eye of Florence was reportedly located about 85 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina.
The storm was said to be crawling west-northwestward at just 5 mph.
However, later in the day, the National Hurricane Center said in an update, "Florence has strengthened a bit since late this afternoon, as winds have ticked up slightly from 100 mph to 105 mph."
It added, "Outer rainbands are pushing ashore in eastern North Carolina, only the beginning of what could be a record-wet siege from a tropical cyclone in parts of the Tar Heel State."
Meanwhile, Many waterfront towns experienced lashing winds, stinging rain that caused floods even before the deadly 11-foot surge arrives.
According to Duke Energy Corp., about 27,000 of its customers lost power untill early on Thursday evening and the service warned in a statement that as many as 3 million may eventually be in the dark for days or weeks.
Earlier in the day, Duke Energy said that it would close two nuclear power reactors at its Brunswick plant, which reportedly produce 1,870 megawatts.
Rita Sipe, a company spokeswoman said in a statement that the company's "procedures required closing the plants when facing a sustained period of 75 mph winds, even though the plants were designed to withstand winds of more than 200 mph."
Sipe added, "The units are 20 feet above sea level and were designed to withstand a storm surge of 22 feet."
The National Hurricane Center said in its update that a hurricane warning and storm surge warning continues to remain in place from the South Santee River, South Carolina, to Duck, North Carolina, including the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds.
The warnings reportedly include Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Wilmington, North Carolina, and most of the Outer Banks.
Further, North Carolina cities such as Greenville, Goldsboro and Kinston have also been issued an extended Hurricane warning.
Meanwhile, with military bases set to be in the storm's path, the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Army have been moving people, ships and aircrafts out of harm’s way.
With the hurricane set to be a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
The U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday that FEMA and first responders are “supplied and ready."