But its slow march over the two states, crawling west at only 3 miles per hour (6 km per hour), is expected to leave large parts of the region deluged in the coming days, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said late Saturday.
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.
"The fact that there haven't been more deaths and damage is awesome and a blessing", said Rebekah Roth, walking around Wilmington's Winoca Terrace neighborhood.
Life-threatening, catastrophic flash floods and prolonged significant river flooding are possible in portions of North Carolina, South Carolina and the southern to central Appalachias to western North Carolina to west-central Virginia and far-eastern West Virginia into early next week, the National Weather Service said. It was crawling west-southwest at 3 miles per hour, lifting huge amounts of ocean moisture and dumping it far from the coast.
Florence's death toll could rise as a number of deaths are being investigated to see if they were caused by the storm.
Cooper said others should not follow suit.
As many as seven deaths have been attributed to the storm so far.
Firefighters said the area had not been in the zone under evacuation orders.
"Please be safe and be smart and use your common sense", Cooper added.
On Thursday, Florence was a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 193kph winds.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has been lashed by torrential rains and near-hurricane force winds, CBS News correspondent Don Dahler reported. "Dangerous storm surge could also affect portions of the northeast coast of SC coast today".More news: Mychal Kendricks agrees to one-year deal with Seahawks
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The figure included a woman and her baby killed when a tree fell on their house. The father was transported to a nearby hospital to receive treatment for injuries he sustained.
A few moments later, the camera panned away and two people were seen walking behind Seidel, appearing to have no problem with the wind.
And weather officials said more is coming, labeling as "extreme" the impacts from storm surge and flash flooding.
New Bern spokeswoman Colleen Roberts said 455 people in all were rescued in the town of 30,000 residents without any serious injuries or deaths.
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.
Drake, along with church member Leroy McGee and a third unidentified church member, had set out in a boat to check homes for anyone needing help, ABC News 4 reports.
Some local residents described a harrowing retreat as the storm hit early on Friday.
More than 800,000 customers in North Carolina were without power and 21,000 people were being housed in 157 shelters across the state.
The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Florence has finally made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.
Warning of the storm's continued threat to life, Governor Roy Cooper said: "More people now face imminent threat than when the storm was offshore". Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.
The White House said President Donald Trump would visit hurricane-hit areas next week "once it is determined his travel will not disrupt any rescue or recovery efforts". Although more than $740 million in federal, state and local funds have been spent to address Matthew's damages, state officials are still working to distribute $236 million allocated by the federal government past year to help reimburse or pay for extensive home repairs.