Roy Cooper, governor for North Carolina, said: "The sun rose this morning on an extremely risky situation and it's going to get worse". "Catastrophic effects will be felt".
But authorities said more than 60 people, including many children and pets, had to be evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, after strong winds caused parts of the roof to collapse.
Some of the worst flooding was in New Bern, North Carolina, a town of about 30,000 people at the confluence of the Trent and Neuse rivers.
"It went from zero to 100 real quick", he said. "We have also gotten calls from family members anxious about relatives they can't reach".
"It will be historic", Baker said of the rain from Florence. We have steps on the sides of the house so it's a few feet off the ground anyway.
Atlantic Beach, located on the state's Outer Banks barrier islands, had received 76cm of rain, the US Geological Survey said.
"We're estimating we've rescued 150-200", New Bern Police Lt. David Daniels said early Friday morning.
He said that only 300 of the city's 22,000 residents have power as of Friday afternoon, as the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm.
Residents at Trent Court Apartments wait out the weather as rising waters get closer to their doors.
At the time, the storm carried winds of about 90 miles per hour (145 km/h), making it a Category 1 storm, but that ranking belies the hurricane's massive clouds and the downpour it is visiting on the coastline, with some areas already drenched in 30 inches (76 centimeters) of rain.
The storm's movement, not its strength, has forecasters and officials anxious. It's moving toward the coast at a speed of 12mph.
According to poweroutage.us, more than 500,000 customers in North Carolina and 50,000 in SC were without power on Friday morning, though the Weather Channel estimates up to 3 million customers could lose power in the Carolinas due to Florence.
Tornadoes are also possible.
The Weather Channel noted in a statement to The Hill that the reporter was standing on wet grass and was "undoubtedly exhausted". It has also moved most ships, submarines, and planes from their base at Hampton Roads, Virginia to safety far at sea or in distant airbases.
As of 6 a.m., Florence was centered just 10 miles (20 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Officials say anyone who has not heeded mandatory evacuation orders is on his or her own.
The police chief of Wrightsville Beach suggested that those who made a decision to stay give him their next-of-kin contact information. On Friday, he applauded the efforts of emergency responders.
"So dramatic!" one Twitter user wrote with the video clip. Hurricane Florence is forecast to make landfall tomorrow.
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