It was expected to begin pushing its way westward across SC later in the day, in a watery siege that could go on all weekend.
"We will have a powerful storm surge and winds". "It's an uninvited brute who doesn't want to leave". North Carolina corrections officials said more than 3,000 people were relocated from adult prisons and juvenile centres in the path of Florence, and more than 300 county prisoners were transferred to state facilities.
A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on a house, according to a tweet from Wilmington police.
The fifth, a 78-year-old man, was found dead on a street outside of Kinston.
"I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth", he said.
Hurricane Florence, growing in size despite its weakening winds on Wednesday, crept closer to the U.S. East Coast as disaster mobilizations expanded south from the Carolinas into Georgia to counter the deadly threat of high seas and floods. It came ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.
But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind.
As of Friday morning, Atlantic Beach, a town on the state's Outer Banks barrier islands, had received 30 inches (76 cm) of rain, the U.S. Geological Service said.
After landfall, Florence slowed to a pace that would see the system likely lingering for days.More news: Samsung Galaxy S10 Variant to Feature 5 Cameras
Florence was one of two major storms on Friday. South Carolina AD Ray Tanner and I communicated all week in hopes that we could play, but in the end, not playing is the safest option for all concerned.
"This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding", the NHC said.
Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of environmental havoc from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms. He says that "over the years the state government and the federal government have become very coordinated in their ability to manage the pre-deployment of assets (and) the response to the citizens of those states, and we will soon be into the recovery".
After appearing headed toward the North Carolina-Virginia border at one point, Florence shifted south and is now taking aim at the Carolinas. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with almost 4 inches (10 centimeters) of water, he calculated.
As of 9 p.m. EST, North Carolina Emergency Management reported that 102,308 customers were without power - even before Florence made landfall. Parts of buildings ripped apart by the storm flew through the air.
Wind gusts as high as 60 miles per hour were recorded in the Myrtle Beach area. Nationwide, airlines canceled more than 2,400 flights through Sunday.
Rescue workers in North Carolina meanwhile were scrambling to save people stranded in their homes.
Downtown New Bern, on the Neuse River also is flooded.
"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", New Bern city officials said on Twitter.
Mr McMaster said: "Even responders can not stay there". She retreated and was eventually rescued by a boat crew; 140 more awaited assistance.