On Thursday evening, Florence's forward movement was just 5mph.
The United States Geological Survey recorded flood water 10.01 feet deep in the town of New Bern in North Carolina.
More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm began buffeting the coast, and more than 12,000 were in shelters.
Officials found a basketball-sized hole in the hotel wall and other life-threatening damage, with some cinder blocks crumbling and parts of the roof collapsing.
As of 5 a.m., its maximum wind speeds remain at 110 miles per hour as it started to ingest drier air, says FOX 13's meteorologist Tyler Eliasen, however, it also means Florence's wind field has grown larger.
At least 150,000 people were without power in North Carolina early Friday with the brunt of the storm yet to come, according to utility companies. The city said early Friday that two out-of-state FEMA teams were working on swift-water rescues and more teams were on the way. The trend is "exceptionally bad news", said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy, since it "smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge".
Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), warned the danger was not only along the coast: "Inland flooding kills a lot of people, unfortunately, and that's what we're about to see", he said.
In contrast to the hurricane center's official projection, a highly regarded European model had the storm turning southward off the North Carolina coast and coming ashore near the Georgia-South Carolina line.
A tornado watch was also in effect for parts of North Carolina.
"The Detention Center can withstand sustained winds up to 155 miles per hour", Roger Antonio, a spokesperson for the Charleston County sheriff's office, told Buzzfeed.
Homeless after losing her job at Walmart three months ago, 25-year-old Brittany Jones went to a storm shelter at a high school near Raleigh.
Landfall is expected late Thursday or early Friday, and the National Hurricane Center fears the storm "will slow considerably or stall, leading to a prolonged and exceptionally heavy and risky rainfall event Friday-Sunday".
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, tropical depression Olivia is bringing rain and flash flooding to Hawaii.
As of 2 a.m., Florence was centered about 35 miles (55 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina.