As Florence first broke on land yesterday 90mph winds struck the coastal areas, but as the storm system moved across land it was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm.
Evacuation orders have been lifted in several coastal SC counties as Florence continues to dump rain on the state.
As of 8:00 am (1200 GMT), maximum sustained winds had weakened to near 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour, but the NHC warned residents of unsafe storm surges and "catastrophic flash flooding".
By Saturday morning, top sustained winds had weakened to 50 mph as it moved farther inland at 2 mph about 35 miles west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
"Our hearts go out to the families of those who died in this storm", Cooper said in a statement on Friday. The governor's office said a man was electrocuted while trying to connect extension leads in the rain. His body was discovered by family members.
Florence is moving inland at 10 kilometers per hour (6 mph), giving it more time to churn, suck up water, batter the coast, and bring massive amounts of rain inland.
North Carolina's Harnett County has declared a mandatory evacuation along a river that's expected to rise to more than 17 feet above flood stage.
President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump stands by tweets questioning Puerto Rico death toll: "NO WAY" Trump pushes back on ex-lawyer putting out book, cites "attorney-client privilege" Wealthiest Republican supporter in OH quits party MORE has approved a disaster declaration for North Carolina as the state deals with Tropical Storm Florence, the White House announced Saturday.
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.
The figure included a woman and her baby killed when a tree fell on their house. Another 150, including some trapped in second floors of houses or in attics, awaited rescue.
The Wilmington Police Department said that the mother and her infant were killed on September 14, when the tree fell on their house; the infant's father was rushed to the hospital with injuries.
New Bern mayor Dana Outlaw discusses ongoing rescue efforts. "If you've ever doubted the destructiveness of a hurricane, what's happening here will make you a believer".
Still, some residents ignored calls to evacuate. More than 360 people have been carried to safety since Thursday night amid rising waters.More news: As Apple launches new iPhones, here are flagships it may have discontinued
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Cinder blocks that were part of the structure crumbled in some places, and portions of the roof were missing.
The National Hurricane Center said the storm has caused "catastrophic flooding" in North and SC.
More than 770,000 customers are without power in North Carolina.
Florence "will continue to track slowly inland through the Carolinas this weekend", the National Weather Service said in its 8:00 a.m. update Saturday. It was also expected to slip briefly back into the open water during the journey.
Forecasters say "it can not be emphasized enough that the most serious hazard associated with slow-moving Florence is extremely heavy rainfall, which will cause disastrous flooding that will be spreading inland".
A wind gust at the Wilmington airport was clocked at almost 170km/h, the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958.
He said residents should "expect flooding and potential landslides tonight and into Monday", and warned against driving in the water "no matter how confident you feel or how much you want to get out of the house". Utilities were monitoring these facilities, which store toxic waste from coal-burning power plants.
While thousands chose to flee the coast, others hunkered down.
The reporter, Mike Seidel, was reporting from Wilmington, N.C., Friday afternoon, where he was shown hunched over and appearing to brace against a strong wind. But Outlaw said on Friday morning it's "not a bad idea to get in your vehicle and get west of I-95" if residents feel they can safely do so.
"It's unsafe, a lot of trees", Charlebois said.
Staying there also allowed her to keep an eye on their freezers and fridges holding food.
In the town of Hampstead, emergency responders going to a call for cardiac arrest Friday morning found their path blocked by downed trees.
"It will not stop, this weather event of Florence", Begnaud said.