The National Hurricane Center said Florence was forecast to keep moving farther inland across the Carolinas through the weekend before turning toward the central Appalachian Mountains early next week.
Florence remains a Category 1 storm, and it's spinning hurricane-force winds up to 35 miles from its center.
Florence arrived at the Carolina coast as a Category 1 storm, its 90-mph winds far slower than the fearsome 150 miles per hour of just a few days ago. Hurricane-force winds were extending out up to 80 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extended up to 195 miles, the center said.
Five people have been killed as Florence mauls the US East Coast, knocking out power for hundreds of thousands of homes and downing trees.
The worst of the storm's fury had yet to reach coastal SC, where emergency managers said it was not too late for people to get out.
Employees at New Bern's WCTI-TV NewsChannel 12 had to abandon their studio for the "first time in history", the station posted on Facebook Thursday night.
Cooper told ABC News' David Muir that residents should continue to shelter in place, even though Florence is no longer a hurricane, because roads are covered in debris and water, and rescues are still taking place in coastal areas. He said parts of North Carolina had seen storm surges - the bulge of seawater pushed ashore by the hurricane - as high as 10 feet. It's about 90 miles northeast of Wrightsville Beach, where Florence made landfall at 7:15 a.m. September 14.
Its storm surge and the prospect of 1-3ft of rain were considered a bigger threat than its winds, which had dropped off from an alarming 140mph earlier in the week.
The storm is forecast to dump about 18 trillion gallons of rainwater on United States soil, most of it in North Carolina, meteorologist Ryan Maue tweeted. Flooding also hit the Bogue Sound near Beaufort, the Pungo River at Belhaven and the Pamlico River at Washington. But with a storm surge putting pressure on water to head back inland and heavy rains swelling those rivers, widespread flooding is the result. Ballance called the rainfall "biblical", saying he's gotten reports from friends that his downtown seafood restaurant was flooded, just like the rest of the small city's historic downtown, and he's anxious about the hundreds of people who needed to be rescued overnight in the city.
Florence is one of four named storms in the Atlantic at the moment. "And we had no belief it would be as significant an event as it was", he said.
Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.
The American Red Cross is now accepting donations to help those affected by Florence.
Florence was inching along Friday night, trapping people in flooded homes and promising days of destruction and human suffering.
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Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m.at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington, not far from the SC line, coming ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.
Super Typhoon Mangkhut tore through the northern tip of the Philippines on Saturday packing winds of more than 200 km per hour (124 mph) along with torrential rain, killing three people and causing floods, landslides and power outages.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry says the USA electricity sector has been well prepared for Hurricane Florence even as hundreds of thousands of homes lose power in the storm.
Forecasters said Florence's surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet (3.4 metres) of sea water.
"This is not the end of it", he said.
Firefighters pray at an operation to remove a tree that fell on a house injuring resident during Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina on September 14, 2018.
The hurricane has torn buildings apart and knocked out power to more than 600,000 homes and businesses.
Cooper said the hurricane was "wreaking havoc" on the coast and could wipe out entire communities as it makes its "violent grind across our state for days".
"And it's just a Category 1 hurricane", Tarr told Agence France-Presse.
In Jacksonville, North Carolina, officials rescued about 60 people overnight from a hotel that was collapsing in the storm. Roof shingles were peeled off a hotel.
None of the people rescued were injured.
In the days leading up to the arrival of Hurricane Florence, North Carolina's governor offered a series of dire warnings.