The center of Hurricane Florence‘s eye made landfall around 7:15 a.m. EST Friday morning near Wrightsville Beach on the North Carolina coastline, leaving first responders rushing to rescue residents stranded by relentless rains, dangerous 10-foot storm surges and 90-mph winds.
The slow-moving storm, which was originally projected as a Category 4 hurricane, hit as Category 1 storm, CNN reported — just like Hurricane Sandy did back in 2012.
More than 100 people have already been saved from the coastal town of New Bern, CNN reported, with efforts continuing for many more as daylight hits.
Carolina waters are still at low tide until around 11:30 a.m. local time on Friday, Today reported, giving rescue workers a brief window this morning to pull stranded residents before the worst of the storm surge hits.
Florence is expected to linger over the Carolinas for another day, Today reported, dropping upwards of 40 inches of rain.
“This is an uninvited brute who just won’t leave,” Gov. Roy Cooper told Today on Friday. “We have a significant storm surge that’s pressing against a big river with historic rains on top of that. That water has nowhere else to go… Even when the storm moves through, the rivers will continue to rise. We can’t be complacent when the sun comes out because this rain is going to increase the levels of our rivers, some of them predicted to get to historic levels. We know there will be flooding in the weeks after the storm.”
Cooper went on to say that there are almost 20,000 people in 157 shelters across the state, and that 350,000 people have lost power. “We know that number is rising as we speak. And we know that people will be without power for days, and sometimes maybe for weeks.”
“I do believe we’re ready for this,” he added. “We have no reported storm-related deaths at this point. We’ve evacuated a lot of people from our coastal areas. Obviously some are still there, and we need to make sure that they’re rescued and taken care of… We’re asking for common sense, for patience. Make sure you protect yourself and your family… We don’t want people getting out in the storm right now.”
Local, state, and federal search and rescue teams are all assisting in rescue efforts.
Officials in New Bern tweeted that at least 150 people are “awaiting rescue” with storm surges reaching 10 feet.
“WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU,” officials said. “You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU. “
“I would say certain areas of New Bern are very desperate,” Craven County spokeswoman Amber Park told ABC News on Friday. “There are people that can be trapped in water, in vehicles, on roofs. That’s just the situation for anyone.”
She added: “They just have to wait until the weather conditions permit them to make it here safely.”
Meanwhile, in Jacksonville, North Carolina, more than 60 people were forced to evacuate a hotel after part of the roof collapsed, CNN reported.