Forecasters said catastrophic freshwater flooding is expected well inland over the next few days as Florence crawls across the Carolinas.
"We're deeply concerned for whole communities which could be wiped away".
Authorities in New Bern, a town of about 30,000 people that dates to the early 18th century, said more than 100 people had to be saved from floods and that the downtown area was underwater. "Nothing you need to get a chain saw after yet", he said by phone. "It was a little dark there for several hours to where it made rescue operations much more hard".
Travel is extremely hazardous because of storm surge, Trogdon said, and will only get worse.
Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m.at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line, coming ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.
Florence was moving west south-west at about 5 miles per hour (7 km/h), with its center located over eastern SC.
More than 722,000 homes and businesses were without power in North and SC early on Friday, utility officials said.
But Jeff Byard of the Federal Emergency Management Agency says saving lives is the priority, and anyone fearing for their safety should call 911 for help.
And about 46 miles farther up the waterfront, in New Bern, two FEMA teams were working on swift-water rescues and more were on the way. Emergency crews also rescued an Onslow family from their home where a tree fell through the roof, Jordan said.
More than 505,000 homes and businesses are already without power, and energy companies warn up to three million homes and businesses could lose electricity.
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Shortly after Feinstein's statement was released , White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec criticized the timing. Feinstein told Kavanaugh on September 5, "I'm sorry for the circumstances, but we'll get through it".
The port city of Wilmington woke on Friday to the sound of exploding electrical transformers with strong gusts throwing street signs and other debris as well as water in all directions, according to a reporter at the scene.
"Some of the rainfall totals we're getting are already adding up to about 14 inches", NHC Director Ken Graham said shortly after 11 a.m. ET. National Hurricane Center meteorologist Joel Cline said the mountains will wring water out of the moist tropical air: "It's like running into a wall, and that moisture has to go somewhere, and it goes up, creates rain, and you have torrential rain in that area".
Tens of thousands of structures are expected to be flooded by storm surge alone, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said at a news conference on Thursday.
Hurricane Florence crashed into the Carolinas on Friday, knocking down trees, swamping streets and causing four deaths before slowing to a pace that will lead to a dayslong deluge for the region. Hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles (130 kilometres) from its centre, and tropical-storm-force winds reached out 195 miles (315 kilometres).
In Bayboro, North Carolina, one of the areas under evacuation, resident Kim Dunn stayed behind.
In Wilmington, Mason Tarr said he spent the night at a friend's house but didn't sleep well.
Officials said Friday they expected the same amount of rainfall seen during Hurricane Floyd in 1999. "I wonder how it would have been with a Category 4 or 5". The great danger now, experts say, is river flooding and then, once the remnants of the tempest reach the higher terrain of the southern Appalachians, flash floods, mudslides and debris flows.
Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it's unclear how many did.
A state of emergency has been declared in five coastal states - North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia.