Already, more than 2 feet (60 centimeters) of rain has fallen in places, and forecasters saying there could be an additional 1½ feet (45 centimeters) before Sunday is out.
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.
Roads were closed and authorities warned of landslides, tornadoes and flash floods, with dams and bridges in peril as rivers and creeks swelled.
The city of Jacksonville's statement says people have been moved to the city's public safety center as officials work to find a more permanent shelter.
Heavy rain and flooding are expected to continue at least through the weekend, and local officials said hundreds in areas hit by Florence still need rescue.
The Miami-based center says the center of the eye moved ashore with top sustained winds of 90 miles per hour, making Florence a Category 1 hurricane in terms of wind intensity.
Florence is 350 miles (560 km) wide and has travelled 4,000 miles across the ocean from west Africa.
As much as 30 to 40 inches (76-102 cm) of rain could fall on coastal areas in North and SC, the National Hurricane Center said.
A man sits on a park bench in a flooded park as the Cape Fear River rises above its usual height in Wilmington, N.C., on Friday.
The total extent of devastation from Florence, which has turned from a hurricane into a tropical storm, remains unknown as rain and flooding continue to wreak havoc in the Carolinas. SC recorded its first death from the storm, with officials saying a 61-year-old woman was killed when her auto hit a tree that had fallen across a highway.
Eduardo Munoz / Reuters A downed tree rests on a house during the passing of Hurricane Florence in the town of Wilson, North Carolina.
On Thursday, Florence was a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 120-mph winds (193 km). It was downgraded to Category 1 before coming ashore on Friday near Wilmington.
"We face walls of water at our coasts, along our rivers, across our farmland, in our cities and in our towns". Some area residents described a harrowing retreat as the storm hit.
"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.
More than 22,600 people in North Carolina were housed in 150 shelters statewide, including schools, churches and Wake Forest University's basketball arena. He said the gust was the strongest recorded in Wilmington since 1958.
Florence was drifting westward over SC, reaching about 25 miles southeast of Columbia S.C.at 2 a.m. Sunday, the NHC said.
Zaytoun said he didn't leave his home because he knew he wouldn't have been able to get back to it once the flooding began.
In New Bern, along the coast, homes were completely surrounded by water, and rescuers used inflatable boats to reach people Saturday.
Spokeswoman Megan S. Thorpe at the state's Department of Environmental Quality said state regulators will conduct a thorough inspection of the site as soon as safely possible.
The White House yesterday said President Donald Trump had approved making federal funding available in some counties. Mr Trump, who spoke with state and local officials last Friday, is planning a visit to the region this week.
Kevin Knox and his family were rescued from their flooded brick home with the help of Army Sgt. Johan Mackie, part of a team using a phone app to locate people in distress.
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