National Weather Service Though Hurricane Florence was downgraded to a category 2 hurricane, it's still caused storm surges up to 10 feet in some areas, with the worst of the flooding still expected to come.
Other officials have warned the storm could also bring landslides to SC. "Catastrophic effects will be felt".
On Thursday morning, a tweet from South Carolina's Emergency Management Division brought this perspective on Florence's sheer size: It's "larger than SC and North Carolina combined". When Florence started battering eastern North Carolina with record rainfall, the Neuse and Trent rivers began to swell - and combined with high tide, made for unsafe flooding.
The 11 p.m. ET National Hurricane Center update warned of "catastrophic freshwater flooding" in parts of North and SC, and of continuing life-threatening storm surges and strong winds overnight as Florence moves slowly west-southwestward over extreme eastern SC.
The Outer Banks of North Carolina took the initial brunt Thursday afternoon, with parts of Highway 12 - the main road that runs through Ocracoke and Hatteras islands - flooding and becoming impassable.
Over 770,000 were without power in North Carolina Friday night.
In Wilmington, North Carolina, a steady rain began to fall as gusts of winds intensified, causing trees to sway and stoplights to flicker.
One person died at the West Brunswick High School shelter Thursday morning, according to a spokesperson for Brunswick County. "Gracious heavenly father God, just with those in the flood zone, may the damage not be so much", they prayed. "Because I don't know that we can go in and get you".
"Since my husband retired and my health declined, we have his retirement as an income".
As of 11 p.m., Florence was centered about 85 miles (135 kilometers) east-southeast of Wilmington, its forward movement slowed to 5 mph (7 kph).
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U.S. Southeast power companies said more than 98,000 homes and businesses in North Carolina, Virginia and SC were without power on Thursday as Hurricane Florence approached the coast.
Florence's top winds were clocked on Thursday evening at 90 miles per hour (150 km/h) as it churned in the Atlantic Ocean, down from a peak of 140 miles per hour (224 km/h) earlier this week when it was classified a Category 4 storm.
The hurricane center said the large amount of rainfall "will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding". Isolated tornadoes may also be included in the wide-range of impacts the storm will have. Further development of that system is no longer anticipated, the NHC said. We know it has forced the cancellation of almost 1,800 flights, with more to come, and that it has already caused serious flooding in coastal areas.
Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it's unclear how many did.
SC ordered the mandatory evacuation of one million coastal residents while North Carolina announced an evacuation of the Outer Banks, a popular tourist destination.
Other residents have told CNN they're not evacuating because emergency shelters won't accept pets.
Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Maryland have declared states of emergency.
Earlier Duke Energy said it expects between 1 million and 3 million customers to be without electricity at the height of the storm.
Cooper said Florence was set to cover nearly all of North Carolina in several feet of water.
Officials have said they are taking precautions to protect sensitive sites.