Morehead City, North Carolina, had received 23 inches of rain by Friday night, and forecasters warned on Saturday morning that parts of the Carolinas could get up to 15 inches more.
Videos posted to social media show storm surges flooding into homes as they race inland. But the water kept rising. "They need to (stay at the hospital)".
The declaration also provides assistance to local governments for cleanup efforts following the storm, including building repairs.
Of course, reporting in extreme conditions is hard and often necessary to warn the public just how unsafe natural disasters can be.
"It was pitch black and I was just scared out of my mind", said Tracy Singleton, who with her family later drove through torrential rain and high winds from her home near New Bern to a hotel some 80 miles (130 km) away.
Storm surges could push as far as 3 km inland, NHC said, while heavy rains were forecast to extend into the Appalachian Mountains, affecting parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia.More news: The truth about Serena Williams' US Open drama
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Florence peaked at a terrifying Category 4 with top winds of 140 mph over warm ocean water before making landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m.at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line. "This band could bring an additional 5 to 10 inches of rain to these areas, exacerbating ongoing flooding and likely leading to additional flooding", the bulletin said.
4 a.m.: Twenty-eight roads are closed in New Hanover County due to flooding, and power outages are widespread. The storm knocked out power to more than 890,000 homes and businesses, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the U.S. electrical grid. "This rainfall will continue to produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding", the advisory said.
More than 2 feet of rain already had fallen in places, and the drenching went on and on as Florence, a hurricane-turned-tropical storm, practically parked itself over the two states.
At the time, the storm carried winds of about 90 miles per hour (145 km/h), making it a Category 1 storm, but that ranking belies the hurricane's massive clouds and the downpour it is visiting on the coastline, with some areas already drenched in 30 inches (76 centimeters) of rain.
"Florence is here to stay for awhile", McMaster said from Columbia Friday afternoon. Later Friday, a wind gust of 68 miles per hour was measured at a station in Wrightsville Beach, near Wilmington. Electricity remained out for much of the city, with power lines lying across many roads like wet strands of spaghetti. So far, at least three people have died because of the storm, including a mother and infant who were in a Mercer Avenue house when it was struck by a felled tree. Cooper cited a National Weather Service forecast that said almost the entire state could be covered in several feet of water.
Officials in New Bern, a town dating to the early 18th century whose downtown area was under water, said more than 100 people were rescued from floods on Friday, with 60 to 75 people awaiting rescue on Saturday.