WILMINGTON: Florence barreled into the Carolina coast and moved inland on Friday, knocking down trees, overflowing rivers, dumping sheets of rain and leading to the death of five people before it was downgraded to a tropical storm still capable of wreaking havoc. The storm was 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.
"Our hearts go out to the families of those who died in this storm", Cooper said in a statement. Dozens more were rescued from a collapsed motel.
And dolphins were spotted closer than usual to shore near in Wilmington, North Carolina.
It tore roofs and facades off buildings and toppled trees. The storm knocked out power to almost 930,000 homes and businesses, and the number could keep rising.
The storm's first casualties, which included a mother and her baby killed when a tree fell on their brick house in Wilmington, North Carolina, were announced about eight hours after Florence came ashore on Friday (local time).
A 78-year-old man in Kinston, North Carolina, was electrocuted when he tried to connect two extension cords outside in the rain, according to Lenoir County Emergency Services Director Roger Dail.
Rivers are swelling toward record levels, forecasters now warn, and thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate for fear that the next few days could bring the most destructive round of flooding in North Carolina history.
Shaken after seeing waves crashing on the Neuse River just outside his house in New Bern, restaurant owner and hurricane veteran Tom Ballance wished he had evacuated.
"We are expecting several more days of rain, and our focus now is getting people away from immediate danger", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said as the relenting storm puttered slowly west near the SC border. But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind.
The operations were made more perilous by fallen trees and power lines; officials didn't expect power to be restored for weeks. With Florence, it'll be the same amount of rainfall in three days.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has been lashed by torrential rains and near-hurricane force winds, CBS News correspondent Don Dahler reported.
Southern and western North Carolina: An additional 10-15 inches, with storm total accumulations up to 20 inches in western North Carolina and up to 40 inches in southeast North Carolina.
Cline said July was the wettest ever in that part of North Carolina, and the water table rose 21 inches higher than normal.
Tropical Storm Florence dumped "epic" amounts of rain on North and SC as it trudged inland on Saturday, knocking out power and causing at least eight deaths as flood waters that have devastated many communities kept rising.
Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of an environmental disaster from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.
Florence was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared past year for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the death toll was put at almost 3,000.
Officials have declared states of emergency in several states, including in the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland, where coastal areas are still recovering from summer storms.
North Carolina alone is forecast to get 9.6 trillion gallons (36 trillion liters), enough to cover the Tar Heel state to a depth of about 10 inches (25 centimeters). Over many months it went to 64 PEOPLE.
Wind speeds are kicking up far from the coast in central SC as Hurricane Florence slowly makes its way along the coast. Forecasters said the torrents could continue for days, touching off disastrous flooding. "That's why we've been preaching to people that you have to get away from the water".