Florence's eyewall reached shore near Wilmington, N.C., just before 6 a.m. ET Friday; more than an hour later, the National Hurricane Center announced, it had "finally" made landfall near Wrightsville Beach.
"We've rescued over 100 people in New Bern, N.C.; people from Jacksonville, N.C., had to rescued from a hotel", Cooper said, describing efforts to save people in towns north of Wilmington where high floods have already hit.
The eyewall was onshore at the North Carolina coast as of 6am AST (11am BST), with landfall having now occurred.
Evacuation warnings are in place for 1.7 million people.
She went to say that she did not start to get anxious until about 3 a.m. when the power went out and she wasn't able to get the generator restarted.
The White House said on Friday President Donald Trump had spoken with state and local officials, assuring them the federal government was prepared to help.
Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles from its center.
"This storm will bring destruction", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said.
"This surge is also likely along portions of the SC coast".
But forecasters say Florence's biggest threat, as with all hurricanes, lies in its water: a storm surge of up to 11 feet and rainfall that will trigger catastrophic flooding.
Downed trees, branches on the hurricane-lashed streets of Wilmington, North Carolina.
Tom Balance, owner of a seafood restaurant in New Bern, had decided against evacuating his home and was soon alarmed to see waves coming off the Neuse and the water getting higher and higher.
Officials have warned people against entering attics, so as to avoid drowning, unless they have a means to cut through to the roof. On land, wind gusts hit the lower triple digits, but just off the coast, buoys recorded wind gusts at 112 miles per hour shortly before landfall.
"Rescue workers are working in unsafe conditions that will only get worse today", said Cooper, who called the storm a "1,000-year rain event" for parts of southeastern North Carolina. "Our meteorologists are saying that the rainfall amounts will be devastating in certain areas", he said Thursday.
By that time, emergency crews had already been deployed to parts of the state where people were trapped by floodwaters. It's forecast to turn northeastward and accelerate in that direction over the weekend.
Florence is expected to dump several feet of rain on the Carolinas as she makes a slow push inland over the next few days.
The National Hurricane Center said Florence will eventually make a right hook to the northeast over the southern Appalachians, moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England as a tropical depression by the middle of next week. The crash happened just after 9:30 p.m. and Lee was reportedly wearing a seatbelt and the only one in the vehicle, according to Capt. Kelley Hughes with South Carolina Highway Patrol.