Storm surges, flash floods and winds have spread destruction widely and the Marines, the Coast Guard and volunteers have used boats, helicopters, and heavy-duty vehicles to conduct hundreds of rescues as of Saturday.
Authorities fear the death toll will go higher as the tropical storm crawls westwards across SC.
Preliminary reports showed that Florence dumped more than 30 inches of rain in Swansboro, North Carolina, breaking the state's record of most rainfall from a single storm. Forecasters said the torrents could continue for days, touching off disastrous flooding.
In Wilmington, a city of about 120,000 people on North Carolina's Atlantic coastline along the Cape Fear River that is home to historic mansions and even a decommissioned World War II-era battleship, streets were strewn with downed tree limbs and carpeted with leaves and other debris. Rain-soaked furniture workers helped him quickly empty more than 1,000 mattresses from a warehouse in a low-lying strip mall. "We didn't know where to go", she said. "If the river rises to the level they say it's going to, then this warehouse is going to be under water", he said. Similarly, U.S. 501 would be the only way into Myrtle Beach. Ponds had begun to overflow, and creeks passing under the highway churned with muddy, brown water.
In the Fayetteville area, John Rose owns a furniture business with stores less than a mile (1.6 kilometers) away from the Cape Fear River.
Glover speculated that part of the problem could stem from an "until I can get to higher ground and make sure my family is safe, I can't talk to media", mindset.
"I can not overstate it: flood waters are rising".
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Across the Carolinas, officials are sounding the alarm: More communities will flood as rivers collect water from upstream and spill over.
"I didn't sleep last night". We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World. The city said two FEMA teams were working on swift-water rescues and more were on the way. The gray ash left behind when coal is burned contains toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead and mercury. "Don't drive across standing or moving water". Many of them are boat owners, who help rescue stricken flood victims.
"Amazing. They did awesome", said Knox, who was stranded with seven others, including a boy carried out in a life vest.
New Bern spokeswoman Colleen Roberts said 455 people were safely rescued in the town of 30,000 residents. She called damage to thousands of buildings "heart-wrenching".
Across the Trent River from New Bern, Jerry and Jan Andrews returned home after evacuating to find carp flopping in their backyard near the porch stairs.
As the United States dealt with Florence, a strong typhoon tore across the northern tip of the Philippines, killing at least three people, wrecking homes and triggering landslides before heading toward Hong Kong and southern China.
The storm's first casualties, which included a mother and her baby killed when a tree fell on their brick house in Wilmington, North Carolina, were announced about eight hours after Florence came ashore on Friday (local time).
In South Carolina, a 61-year-old woman died Friday night when her auto struck a tree that fell during the storm, state emergency officials said.