Watch a livestream of Hurricane Florence bearing down on North Carolina

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After reaching a terrifying Category 4 peak of 140 mph earlier in the week, Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m.at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line, coming ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.

Although Florence has been downgraded from a category four to a category two storm, North Carolina governor Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent".

Duke Energy says of the 20,000 people in place to help get the lights on after the storm, 1,200 came from Florida.

Not everyone was taking Florence too seriously: About two dozen locals gathered Thursday night behind the boarded-up windows of the Barbary Coast bar as Florence blew into Wilmington. "There is overwash but nothing we are not used to", she said.

"We got thrown into mailboxes, houses, trees", said Holt, who had stayed at home because of a doctor's appointment that was later canceled.

Its maximum wind speed has fallen to 90 miles per hour though some gusts are higher.

Want to see the storm for yourself? "I am frightened about what's coming". "We're just watching and waiting". "Stay on guard. This is a powerful storm that can kill".

Image: Waters come ashore in Avon, North Carolina.

Florence's top winds were clocked on Thursday at 100 miles per hour (170 km per hour) as it churned in the Atlantic Ocean, down from a peak of 140 mph (224 kph) earlier this week when it was classified a Category 4 storm.

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Nearly two-thirds of the reported outages originated in Carteret County, along the coast about 100 miles (161 kilometers) northeast of Wilmington, North Carolina.

More than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate over the past few days, and the homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions.

Cooper said 126 shelters are open across the state, with more than 12,000 people already staying at them, as of Thursday evening.

The National Hurricane Center says Florence is now lashing the North Carolina coast with hurricane -force winds and a life-threatening storm surge. Heavy rains were forecast to extend into the Appalachian mountains, affecting parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Environmental Protection Agency staff are monitoring 40 contaminated sites, as well as large oil facilities, and other facilities that deal with hazardous materials or chemicals in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia ahead of the storm.

"It's looking a little grim", said Kelly Starbuck, 48, a photographer who grew up on Wrightsville Beach, a town of about 2,500 people, as she stood on high ground about a half-mile inland and peered through a long lens at her family home, which was under a mandatory evacuation order. It had long lines on Thursday.

The U.S. Naval Forces North Command also has deployed ships off the S.C. coast once the storm passes for recovery and rescue efforts, should support be needed, said Lt. Cmdr.

Instead they drove 150 miles inland to his mum's house in Durham.

Steve Shumake, disaster action team coordinator for the Central SC region of the Red Cross, said evacuees should bring their own pillows and blankets, 4 to 7 days of necessary medications, any medical equipment they need and children's activities and comfort items.

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