The eye of Hurricane Florence made landfall at 7:15 a.m. Friday near Wrightsville Beach, bringing with it gusts up to 105 mph, the highest on record since 1958, Governor Cooper said during a press conference Friday morning. Storm surges have flooded much of the coast and about a half-million people in the state have lost power.
“The sun rose this morning on an extremely dangerous situation and it’s getting worse,” Cooper said. “The storm is going to continue its violent grind across our state for days and be a major inland event as well. To those in the storm’s path, if you can hear me, please stay sheltered in place. Do not go out in this storm.”
Florence is now considered a category 1 storm.
Rivers, including the Neuse and Cape Fear, are overflowing to dangerous levels and will continue to rise even after the rain stops, Cooper said. Those near a major river should be on alert for evacuation orders and leave immediately if conditions worsen, Cooper said.
About twenty thousand people in the state are staying in 157 shelters across in the state, Cooper said, noting that number is fluctuating constantly. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will be opening a "mass shelter" on campus, Cooper announced. Few details were given, but according to emergency management director Mike Sprayberry, the shelter will open Saturday and be able to hold "several hundred" people.
Historic flooding is expected throughout the state during the storm and its aftermath, said Sprayberry.
Cooper urged residents to stay indoors and not venture out into the storm; doing so would risk their lives and the safety of first responders. Those sheltering in place should not use generators or gas grills inside their homes. Cooper also asked that residents avoid flying drones in disaster areas, as they could interfere with helicopter search-and-rescue missions. So far, no fatalities have been reported, Cooper said.
“This storm is wreaking havoc on our state and were deeply concerned for farms, for businesses for schools and even whole communities which could be wiped away,” Cooper said. “But I know North Carolinians, we’re going to make it through this.”