They felt it first in Cape Lookout, North Carolina on the southernmost tip of the state's outer bank islands.
Hurricane Irene made landfall just after first light saturday , starting the day with 100 mph winds that knocked over street signs and trees, shattered glass and sent residents running for cover.
"This state and our people have sustained significant damage. I don't know what the cost will be but I think the cost is going to be significant," said North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue.
By early afternoon, nearly 600,000 North Carolinians had lost their power.
Residents in 18 of the state's eastern counties had been ordered to evacuate.
Those who remained, however, managed to find a silver lining.
"Irene and I have had a very special relationship," said Morehead City resident Alex Edwards.
Both North Carolina's Governor and President Barack Obama have declared a state of emergency, not so much because of wind damage but rather because of flooding.
Many areas are under water.
All in all, Irene dumped up to 14 inches of rain on eastern North Carolina. Reports of flooding poured in all day.
Fifty miles inland, the historic town of New Bern was hit with massive flooding. Dozens had to be rescued from their homes as up to four feet of water rushed in.
"We need to pump our basement, clean up the limbs, and remove the tree," said New Bern resident Bob Whitmore
There's a lot more work that needs to be done in the days and weeks ahead before North Carolina recovers from the first major storm to hit its shores since Hurricane Isabel back in 2003.