Florence is still a unsafe storm and is linked to at least five deaths so far.
"This is one of the most devastating hurricanes we've ever had", Mayor Dana Outlaw told CNN.
On the other side of the world, meanwhile, more than a dozen people have died as Typhoon Mangkhut rips through the Philippines. Gusts reached over 100 miles per hour - the highest recorded in North Carolina since 1958.
Roads became flooded, trees blown over and homes destroyed as some parts of North Carolina have already seen surges of flood water as high as 10ft.
Florence drove almost 1 million people from their homes and almost 700,000 lost power.
Meanwhile, tragedy struck one family in Wilmington when a tree fell on a house; a mother and a child were killed. With half of the storm still out over the Atlantic, Florence continued to collect warm ocean water and dump it on land.
The National Hurricane Center said Florence broke a North Carolina rainfall record that had stood for nearly 20 years: Preliminary reports showed Swansboro got over 30 inches and counting, eclipsing the mark set in 1999, when Hurricane Floyd dropped just over 24 inches on the state. It came ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.
Even as the winds abated, the waters rose.
There is the potential for 40 inches of rain to fall in some areas across Northern and Southern Carolina.
"Excessive rainfall associated with Tropical Storm Florence will result in life threatening, devastating flash flooding", according to duty forecasters.
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"I think we can say that the storm is stronger, wetter and more impactful from a coastal flooding standpoint than it would have been BECAUSE of human-caused warming", Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann wrote in an email.
And dolphins were spotted closer than usual to shore near in Wilmington, North Carolina. Hundreds of people were rescued in New Bern, North Carolina, on Friday.
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. On Thursday, Florence was a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 120-mph winds (193 km).
Yet a day after landfall the faster-moving Mangkhut was back out over open water - weakened, but headed across the South China Sea toward China.
And weather officials said more is coming, labeling as "extreme" the impacts from storm surge and flash flooding.
Heavy rains: Up to 18 trillion gallons (68 trillion liters) falling on seven states over seven days, as much water as there is the entire Chesapeake Bay.
More than 12,000 people were in shelters in North Carolina and 400 in Virginia, where the forecast was less dire.
Two men died in Lenoir County, North Carolina.
In New Bern, population 29,000, flooding on the Neuse River left 500 people in peril. We got thrown into mailboxes.
Boat teams including volunteers rescued some 360 residents, including Sadie Marie Holt, 67, who first tried to row out of her neighborhood during Florence's assault.
"The wind was so hard, the waters were so hard ..." Her 6-foot-2 husband went to see what he could do, but the water was above his chest, she said.