More than 80,000 people in North Carolina already were without power as the storm began buffeting the coast, and more than 12,000 were in shelters. "We face walls of water at our coasts, along our rivers, across our farmland, in our cities and in our towns".
Hurricane Florence lumbered ashore in North Carolina with howling 90 miles per hour winds and terrifying storm surge early Friday, ripping apart buildings and knocking out power to a half-million homes and businesses as it settled in for what could be a long and extraordinarily destructive drenching.
There were more than 455,000 power outages as of early Friday in North Carolina, according to the state department of public safety.
Here's video of New Bern, North Carolina where hundreds of people were trapped in flood waters. By 5 p.m., it was about 50 miles west-southwest of Wilmington, and the wind had dropped to 70 mph. "Everybody laughs at the fact that this storm got downgraded. but I've never seen tree devastation this bad".
In South Carolina, 155,000 customers are without power, officials said.
"We tell them to remain calm, not to panic, we will rescue them", Roberts said. A storm surge of more than nine feet is expected to be caused from the hurricane, covering cars, street signs and homes.
"This rainfall will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding", the NHC said. The three-day record for Wilmington is 19.66 inches set in 2010.
FEMA administrator Brock Long said on Thursday: "Inland flooding kills a lot of people unfortunately and that's what we're about to see". Some areas of North Carolina saw nearly a foot of rain in just a few hours.
"The greatest storm surge inundation is expected between Cape Fear and Cape Hatteras, including the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers and western Pamlico Sound". "We don't (where we're going) yet. We got thrown into mailboxes, houses, trees", said Holt, who had stayed at home because of a doctor's appointment that was later canceled.
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.More news: Several dead, hundreds rescued as Florence pounds Carolinas
Volunteers and city workers have been filling sandbags, trying to plug a low point in the city's levee system before the Lumber River crests.
"It was pitch black and I was just scared out of my mind", said Tracy Singleton, who with her family later drove through torrential rain and high winds from her home near New Bern.
"If you live in south Lumberton, west Lumberton, go ahead and leave now while you can, please", Cantey told CNN on Saturday morning. Strong winds could also spread inland into portions of the Carolinas over the next couple of days.
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.
More than 60 others had to be rescued as a cinderblock motel collapsed.
The baby's father was rushed to the hospital to be treated for his injuries, police said.
Emergency crews responding to a 911 call tried to reach the womans home, but were delayed by downed trees on streets, said Chad McEwen, assistant county manager. When they got to the home, the woman was dead, authorities said.
North Shore Animal League America announced it was partnering with Martinsville SPCA to rescue dogs and puppies from the Carolina and Virginia areas shelters.
SC authorities said law enforcement officers were guarding against looting in evacuated areas, while Wilmington set a curfew on Saturday evening in response to looting in one area.
"The sheer size of the tree was not something you could quickly cut with a chain saw", Mason said. They later clarified those deaths were not related to Florence. The storm knocked out power to almost 930,000 homes and businesses, and the number could keep rising.