The powerful Category 1 storm is making its way south along the Carolina coast hours after making technical landfall early Friday morning.
"Houses. Trees", Holt said.
The city of about 29,000, which was founded in the early 1700s and was briefly the state capital, is near the North Carolina coast and is bordered on the east and south, respectively, by two rivers.
The City of New Bern said in a tweet before dawn Friday that there were about 150 people who still needed swift-water rescue.
Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it's unclear how many did.
"I had a lot of fear initially but I'm glad to be inside and safe", said Zelda Allen, 74, a retired tax accountant from Hampstead, North Carolina, who was riding out the storm at Wilmington's Hotel Ballast with her husband. Significant weakening is expected over the weekend. Millions of people are expected to lose power and it could take weeks to resolve the outages.
Some of the worst flooding was in New Bern, North Carolina, a town of about 30,000 people at the confluence of the Trent and Neuse rivers.
Hurricane Florence, which has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, hammered Wilmington, NC on Friday.
When all is said and done, Florence could dump 18 trillion gallons along its path, according to meteorologist Ryan Maue. It is expected to move across parts of southeastern North Carolina and eastern SC on Friday and Saturday, then head north over the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC said.
Florence's eyewall reached shore near Wilmington, N.C., just before 6 a.m. ET Friday; more than an hour later, the National Hurricane Center announced, it had "finally" made landfall near Wrightsville Beach.
Travel on the state's roads has grown "extremely hazardous", said Jim Trogdon, the North Carolina transportation secretary, who warned in a late-morning briefing that a 500- to 1,000-year "flood event is anticipated".
An ominous tweet appeared on a historic North Carolina community's Twitter feed about 2 a.m. Friday. The National Hurricane Center in Miami says more than 16 inches of rain have fallen at locations in southeast North Carolina and another 20 to 25 inches is on the way.
Members of the Louisiana Cajun Navy were assisting with rescue operations but later moved to Wilmington after emergency responders said conditions were under control. Over 60 people had to be pulled out of a collapsing motel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and hundreds were saved as water levels rose.
"Some of the rainfall totals we're getting are already adding up to about 14 inches", NHC Director Ken Graham said shortly after 11 a.m. ET.
As the climate warms, the way air moves through the atmosphere can become disrupted, possibly blocking these types of storms in place more often.