Rain, wind and rising floodwaters from Hurricane Florence swamped the Carolinas early on Friday as the massive storm crawled toward the coast, threatening millions of people with record rainfall and punishing surf. The father was taken to hospital with unspecified injuries. In the state's Pender County, a woman died of a heart attack; paramedics trying to reach her were blocked by debris.
The White House said on Friday President Donald Trump had spoken with state and local officials, assuring them the federal government was prepared to help.
Hurricane Florence rolled ashore in North Carolina with howling 90 miles per hour winds and terrifying storm surge early Friday, killing at least four people and trapping hundreds more in high water as it settled in for what could be a long and extraordinarily destructive drenching.
Both the Trent and Neuse rivers overflowed their banks, flooding homes, stores and streets and trapping many people in their houses.
Salisbury, N.C. -based Food Lion on Friday said it has begun now accepting financial donations for Hurricane Florence relief at its 1,000 stores. Harris Teeter, a Kroger Co. subsidiary, announced closings for 24 stores in North Carolina and 18 stores in SC.
By 5 a.m., about 200 people had been rescued from flooded homes in New Bern, where the National Weather Service reported 10 feet of inundation.
More than 722,000 homes and businesses were without power in North and SC early on Friday, utility officials said.
By early afternoon, Florence's winds had weakened to 75 miles per hour, just barely a hurricane and well below the storm's terrifying Category 4 peak of 140 miles per hour earlier in the week.
Forecasters said conditions will deteriorate as the storm pushes ashore early Friday near the North Carolina-South Carolina line and makes its way slowly inland. "The combination of a unsafe storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline".
Response teams had already "brought in busloads" of rescued people from areas including Fairfield Harbor, New Bern, Adams Creek and Township 7, she said.
Members of the North Carolina National Guard finish stacking sand bags under a highway overpass near the Lumber River which is expected to flood from hurricane Florence's rain.
Governor Cooper said there have been "several hundred" rescue operations and "there are still some people they need to get to".
In terms of store closures, Food Lion is most affected by Florence.
"WPD can confirm the first two fatalities of Hurricane #Florence in Wilmington".
Florence downgraded to a tropical storm, according to the National Hurricane Center.
More than 1.7 million people in Virginia, North and SC were told to evacuate ahead of Florence's arrival.
Early on Friday, South Carolina emergency officials said there was still time, "but not a lot of time" for people to leave flood-prone areas.
"We know we're in for a long haul here", Cooper said of predictions that the storm will linger over the area.