Florence diminished from hurricane strength as it came ashore on Friday, but the large storm's slow progress across the two states could leave much of the region under water in the coming days, according to forecasters. The city tweeted early September 14 that 150 people were awaiting rescue.
Utility crews worked to restore electricity even as flood waters inundated whole communities.
"The fact that there haven't been more deaths and damage is incredible and a blessing", Rebekah Roth said yesterday while walking around Wilmington's Winoca Terrace neighborhood.
In Washington, North Carolina, the wind-swept Pamlico River has risen beyond its banks and is flooding entire neighborhoods.
Florence peaked at a terrifying Category 4 with top winds of 140 mph over warm ocean water before making landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15am at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line.
Evacuation orders remain in place for Horry and Georgetown counties along South Carolina's northern coast.
"The flood danger from this storm is more immediate today than when it. made landfall 24 hours ago", Cooper said Saturday morning.
"The fact that there haven't been more deaths and damage is incredible and a blessing", said Rebekah Roth, walking around Wilmington's Winoca Terrace neighborhood. So far, at least three people have died because of the storm, including a mother and infant who were in a Mercer Avenue house when it was struck by a felled tree.
"Please be safe and be smart and use your common sense", Cooper added.
On Thursday, Florence was a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 193kph winds.
In New Bern, North Carolina, the National Weather Service said there was 10ft of water.
The death toll from Hurricane Florence rose to eight on Saturday, local media said.
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Almost half a million people were evacuated from seven cities in Guangdong province, the gambling enclave of Macau closed down casinos for the first time and the Hong Kong Observatory told people to stay away from the Victoria Harbour, where storm surges battered the waterfront reinforced with sandbags.
At least four people were killed. Paramedics trying to reach her were blocked by debris.
In Kinston, a city southeast of Raleigh, two people died in the storm.
U.S. media later said a man in Lenoir County died after heavy winds knocked him down as he tried to check on his dogs.
With flood waters advancing rapidly in many communities, stranded people were being rescued by boat and by helicopter, while tens of thousands of others hunkered down in shelters.
New Bern spokeswoman Colleen Roberts said 455 people had been rescued in the town of 30,000 residents without any serious injuries or deaths.
The deadly storm made landfall on the east coast of the United States on Friday bringing with it "biblical" flooding on what's been described as a "thousand-year rain event".
"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 to a hotel some 80 miles (130 km) away.
In an update published at 5:33 a.m. ET on Saturday, the agency said that the storm is now striking SC and has a path through the in-land charted for the next few days.
The figure for SC was 170,000.
In South Carolina, there were 7,000 people staying in shelters.
The president may travel to the region next week, the White House says.