About 760,000 customers are without power in North Carolina on Saturday.
By Friday evening, the center of the storm had moved to eastern SC, about 15 miles northeast of Myrtle Beach, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.
Mandatory evacuations were ordered ahead of Florence's landfall in parts of North and SC, though many people chose to remain in their homes for reasons ranging from financial concerns and the need to care for pets that they may not have been able to take to some evacuation shelters, some who stayed in their residences told ABC News ahead of the storm. Forecasters said the torrents could continue for days, touching off disastrous flooding.
Cooper warned: "Don't drive through water, no matter how confident you feel or how much you want to get out of the house".
Eduardo Munoz / Reuters Water from the Neuse river floods houses during the passing of Hurricane Florence in the town of New Bern, North Carolina. Authorities expect the death toll to rise in the coming days.
Wilmington Police confirmed that a mother and her infant died when a tree fell on their home.
A 77-year-old man has also died after apparently being knocked down by the wind when he went out to check on his hunting dogs. The man's family found his body Friday morning, according to Dail.
A woman in Hampstead, in Pender County, died of an apparent heart attack after emergency crews could not clear debris to get to her.
Trump previously declared states of emergency in North and SC, and Virginia.
With rivers swelling toward record levels, thousands of people were ordered to evacuate for fear the next few days could bring the most destructive round of flooding in North Carolina history.
During most serious storms, floodwaters filled the roadside drainage ditch then receded.
"I can not overstate it: Floodwaters are rising, and if you aren't watching for them, you are risking your life", Governor Roy Cooper said.
US East Coast braces for Hurricane Florence
A sailor heaves line in preparation ahead of Hurricane Florence at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Virginia, September 11, 2018. Elder relatives carry as much weight as meteorologists in a tight-knit community of slave descendants on the SC coast.
Roads became flooded, trees blown over and homes destroyed as some parts of North Carolina have already seen surges of flood water as high as 10ft.
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.
Picture the entire state of Texas covered with roughly 4 inches (10 centimeters) of water: that's Florence's rainfall forecast over a week. Areas further inland through southwest Virginia could see as much as 15 inches of rainfall.
In a separate briefing, Steve Goldstein of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said some areas have already received two feet of rain and could expect up to 20 inches more as the system moved "slowly, almost stationary" over eastern North Carolina.
"The flood danger from this storm is more immediate today than when it. made landfall 24 hours ago", Cooper said Saturday morning.
The city of about 29,000, which was founded in the early 1700s, is near the North Carolina coast and is bordered on the east and south, respectively, by two rivers. "Nobody expected this", a rescued resident, Tom Ballance, toldThe Weather Channel.
As for the landslides, Gov. Henry McMaster did warn about possible landslides in the state, but he was referring to northwestern portions of the state, not the Grand Strand.
The Weather Channel's Mike Seidel was seemingly battling to stay upright as he filmed a piece in North Carolina - only for two pedestrians to calmly stroll past in the background.
23 aviation rescues, and counting.
"It's not often that we have to prepare for a hurricane in the mountains, but we are doing so on our campus", Jason Marshburn, the director of safety and emergency management at Appalachian State University in Boone, wrote in a letter to students and faculty members.
In Blacksburg, Virginia, Virginia Tech's staff made the most of the unexpected time off.