Florence blew ashore early Friday in North Carolina with 90 miles per hour winds, buckling buildings, deluging entire communities and knocking out power to more than 900,000 homes and businesses as it crawled inland and weakened into a still-lethal tropical storm.
One man died after attempting to hook up a generator according to North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper's office.
President Donald Trump announced Saturday morning that he has declared North Carolina a major disaster as Florence, now downgraded to a tropical storm, continues to dump record-setting rain on the Wilmington region.
Roads became flooded, trees blown over and homes destroyed as some parts of North Carolina have already seen surges of flood water as high as 10ft.
"Doppler radar was showing a band of heavy rain developing off the North and South Carolina Coasts".
Neighbour Adam Sparks said he noticed emergency responders arrive at the house across the street right around when his power went out and the storm was intensifying. "There's a little bit of apprehension as you can imagine", said Major Mark Craddock with the Salvation Army of Cape Fear, who was hunkered down with about 30 others at the organization's shelter in downtown Wilmington, about three blocks from the Cape Fear River.
The flooding soon spread into SC, swamping places like North Myrtle Beach, in a resort area known for its white sands and multitude of golf courses.
At 11 a.m. Saturday, Florence was centered about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, moving west at 2 mph (4 kph), not even as fast as a person can walk. More than 60 people had to be rescued in another town as a cinderblock motel collapsed at the height of the storm's fury.
Currently, Florence has top winds estimated at 50 miles per hour.
The storm's center is crawling inland over SC, but its main rain bands largely are over already-saturated North Carolina - setting up what may be days of flooding for some communities.
Multiple deaths have been linked to Hurricane Florence, which has now been downgraded to a tropical storm.
A mother and her young child were killed when a tree fell on their house in Wilmington, North Carolina. The father was hospitalized with injuries. In Pender County, a woman died of a heart attack; paramedics trying to reach her were blocked by debris. Few people had ventured out - most were heeding warnings from officials to stay inside.
CORRECTING GRAMMAR AND TYPO IN CITY NAME People are rescued by members of the U.S. Army during the passing of Hurricane Florence in the town of New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018.
The massive system weakened into a tropical storm in the late afternoon but across the region, emergency officials warned that more water was yet to come, with cresting rivers and flash flooding fed by the unending rain. New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw told The Charlotte Observer about 200 people already had been rescued by 5 a.m.
"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", New Bern city officials said on Twitter.
Some local residents described a harrowing retreat as the storm hit early on Friday.
The elevation will serve as a forcing mechanism for the abundant low level moisture being dragged in by Florence, essentially creating an ideal environment for torrential rain and the possibility of mudslides, especially Sunday into Monday. Morehead City, North Carolina, had received 23 inches (58 centimeters) of rain by Friday night with more torrents on the way. The figure for SC was 170,000. More than 22,600 people were housed in 150 shelters statewide, including schools, churches and Wake Forest University's basketball arena.