Tens of thousands of homes are without power and sea water is sloshing through coastal streets as Hurricane Florence begins lashing the US East Coast.
The hurricane is moving towards land with maximum sustained wind speeds of 150 km/h.
It lost power as it approached North and South Carolina, but officials warn it could still kill “a lot of people” with risks of “catastrophic” flooding.
Evacuation orders are in place for more than a million people.
The governor of North Carolina, where Florence is expected to make landfall at noon local time on Friday, said surviving the storm would be a test of “endurance, teamwork, common sense, and patience”.
“The first bands of the storm are upon us but we have days more to go,” Roy Cooper said.
National Weather Service forecaster Brandon Locklear said North Carolina is likely to see eight months’ worth of rain in two to three days.
Conditions deteriorated throughout Thursday. Some areas of North Carolina saw almost a foot of rain just a few hours, and footage showed sea levels begin to surge in land.
Over 1,400 flights have been cancelled, according to FlightAware.com, as most of the coastal region’s airports are closed to ride out the storm.
More than one million people have been ordered to leave the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia, with more than 12,000 taking refuge in emergency shelters.