More than 60 others had to be rescued as a cinderblock motel collapsed. Hundreds more had to be rescued elsewhere from rising waters.
Volvo closed its new plant in Charleston, South Carolina, which employs 1,000 people who make the company's S60 sedan.
Coastal streets flowed with ocean water, and more than 460,000 homes and businesses were without power, mostly in North Carolina, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the nation's electrical grid.
More than 320,000 power outages were reported across North Carolina and almost 4,400 in SC. He called the rain an event that comes along only once every 1,000 years.
"A big worry about Hurricane Florence is that it's not acting like a normal hurricane", said Al Jazeera's Andy Gallacher, reporting from Wilmington, North Carolina. Roberts said numerous residents live near the Neuse and Trent rivers.
After appearing headed toward the North Carolina-Virginia border at one point, Florence shifted south and is now taking aim at the Carolinas.
Being such a small number, first responders have made clear to them the situation when the storm makes its expected complete landfall by 8 a.m. Friday morning.More news: Apple Unveils New iPhone Xs, iPhone Xs Max and iPhone Xr
As Hurricane Florence slams North Carolina, the riverfront city of New Bern is already feeling the impacts.
Joyce, with winds extending about 35 miles from its center, is expected to tap the brakes a bit and turn eastward by Friday night, and then accelerate northeastward over the weekend.
U.S. President Donald Trump took a moment on Friday to thank those responding to emergencies across the Carolinas. By that time, emergency crews had already been deployed to parts of the state where people were trapped by floodwaters.
"The storm's worst scenes so far - still an hour or two before landfall - have emerged in the besieged town of New Bern, where about 150 people called for help overnight", the report quoted city officials as saying.More news: No Hurricane Florence evacuation orders for Jasper, Beaufort
Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it's unclear how many did. She said she is anxious that if she evacuates, she'll get caught up in the massive flooding that's expected to affect the region. "To those in the storm's path, if you can hear me, please stay sheltered in place".
Tom Balance, owner of a seafood restaurant in New Bern, had decided against evacuating his home and was soon alarmed to see waves coming off the Neuse and the water getting higher and higher. "This could be enough to knock you off your feet", says Navarro.
With many employees at risk, Novartis said it has temporarily stopped pharmaceutical production at their Wilson, North Carolina site.More news: Hurricane Florence Tracking Toward Carolinas Virginia Watches