The 11 p.m. ET National Hurricane Center update warned of "catastrophic freshwater flooding" in parts of North and SC, and of continuing life-threatening storm surges and strong winds overnight as Florence moves slowly west-southwestward over extreme eastern SC.
The hurricane hit the coast around 7:15 a.m. ET, after being downgraded from a Category 4 to a Category 1 storm the day before.
In New Bern, population 29,000, flooding on the Neuse River trapped people, and Mayor Dana Outlaw told The Charlotte Observer that about 200 had been rescued by 5 a.m. Residents reached out for help through the night by phone and social media. As forecasters warned the hurricane could lead to potentially catastrophic flooding.
States of emergency have already been declared in both North and SC.
About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than one million were ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia, jamming westbound roads and highways for miles.
"Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless", he said. It's moving north-northeast at 18 miles per hour. The large size of the tree made it hard, Wilmington Fire Department Chief Jon Mason said during a Friday afternoon press conference.
Tropical-storm-force winds extend up to 175 miles from the center of the storm.
"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 was expected over the weekend.
The storm is forecast to dump about 18 trillion gallons of rainwater on U.S. soil, most of it in North Carolina, meteorologist Ryan Maue tweeted.
The state's transportation secretary, James Trogdon, said the state may see "flood events" that normally only occur once every 1,000 years.
Residents can be seen wading through deep floodwater in New Bern as they attempt to retrieve their belongings.
Storm surges of up to six feet were forecast for Belhaven, North Carolina, where this video was recorded on the night of September 13.
One person died at a shelter in Brunswick County Thursday morning, according to a spokesperson for the county.
The Wilmington airport had a wind gust clocked at 105 miles per hour (169 kph), the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958. Rainfall of up to 20 to 40 inches could fall over the next five days in some areas, forecasters say.
"We are expecting several more days of rain and our focus now is getting people away from immediate danger and then we will shift to putting our communities back together", Cooper said Friday.
This landfall has been a long time coming: The hurricane arrived more than two weeks after the National Hurricane Center issued its first advisory for the storm.