The National Hurricane Center said Florence broke a North Carolina rainfall record that had stood for nearly 20 years: Preliminary reports showed Swansboro got over 30 inches and counting, eclipsing the mark set in 1999, when Hurricane Floyd dropped just over 24 inches on the state.
By tomorrow afternoon, the center of Florence is expected to be across western SC.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper described the hurricane as likely to "continue its violent grind for days" and described the severity of the downfalls as a "1,000 year event".
As of 5 a.m. ET, top sustained winds had dropped to near 80 km/h with higher gusts, and Florence is expected to become a tropical depression later Saturday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
Tropical storm-force winds stretched up to 150 miles (240 kph) from the storm's center. The storm has since been downgraded to a tropical storm.
The coastline is under immediate threat of increasingly high water levels due to winds pushing surges onshore, with large and destructive waves.More news: Sarri on Hazard: He may be the best in Europe
On the other side of the world, meanwhile, more than a dozen people have died as Typhoon Mangkhut rips through the Philippines.
That's how hard the wind gusted in North Carolina's New River inlet.
As Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a tropical storm, continued to chart a path of destruction across North and SC on Saturday, school gymnasiums morphed into makeshift shelters for thousands of people displaced from their homes in nearby flood-prone areas. In Wilmington, high winds blew transformers, plunging the city into darkness.
"Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless", Cooper said.
The dead included a mother and baby who were killed when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Heavy rains will continue to fall in the Carolinas and heavier rains are expected to spread into western parts of North Carolina, in addition to some parts of eastern Tennessee and eastern Georgia, Doll said.More news: How to Find an Apple Watch 4 In Stock
Almost 814,000 homes in North Carolina and 170,000 in SC are without power.
The National Hurricane Center said a gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, reported 6.3 feet (1.92 meters) of inundation. Several places already had more than 40 centimetres of rain, and Oriental, North Carolina got more than 50 centimetres in just a few hours.
North Carolina alone is forecast to get 9.6 trillion gallons (36 trillion litres), enough to cover the Tar Heel state to a depth of about 10 inches (25 centimetres).
Rescue crews used boats to carry more than 360 people from rising water in the river town of New Bern, North Carolina, while many of their neighbours awaited help.
Ashley Warren and boyfriend Chris Smith managed to paddle away from their home in a boat with their two dogs, and were left shaken.
"If it goes up to my front step, I have to get out", Quintin Washington said.More news: On video, Delhi cop’s son thrashes woman; arrested after Rajnath Singh intervenes