In New Bern, North Carolina, the storm surge overwhelmed the town of 30,000, located at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers. Forecasters said "catastrophic" freshwater flooding was expected along waterways far from the coast of the Carolinas.
Winds here are still expected to reach a maximum sustained speed of 60 to 70 miles per hour, with peaks reaching in the upper 80s in some Grand Strand regions. The hurricane is now centered about 220 miles (354km) east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and 170 miles to the south-east of Wilmington, North Carolina.
Hurricane-force winds extended 130km from its centre, and tropical storm-force winds reached out to 315km.
Florence had been a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 193km/h winds as of Thursday, local time, but dropped to a Category 1 hurricane before coming ashore near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington.
As rescuers battled strong winds and debris-filled floodwaters to pluck hundreds of stranded people from their homes, officials confirmed at least three deaths from the monster storm, while USA media reported a fourth. The storm knocked out power to more than 890,000 homes and businesses, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the U.S. electrical grid.
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".
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More than 1 million people had been ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia and thousands have moved to emergency shelters.
"These are folks who chose to stay and ride out the storm for whatever reason, despite having a mandatory evacuation", she said.
Florence arrived at the Carolina coast as a Category 1 storm, with winds far slower than the fearsome 150 miles per hour of just a few days ago.
These types of slow-moving storms - like Hurricane Harvey - can be particularly unsafe because of the rain and flooding they can bring.
More than 3,000 inmates at North Carolina prisons and juvenile detention centers were moved out of the storm's path. Calls for help multiplied as the wind picked up and the tide rolled in.
Meteorologists expect the storm to hover over the Carolinas through Saturday as it moves inland, rolling over parts of Georgia and Tennessee into Sunday afternoon and then weakening to heavy rain and wind in traveling up the Appalachians toward the Northeast.
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Authorities say at least 20,000 people have evacuated their homes and are sought refuge in shelters throughout North Carolina. The homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions.
Roads and intersections on North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands were inundated. The hurricane had the brothers slightly anxious of storm surge, but they didn't believe there would be horrific damage.
Trump faced severe criticism for his administration's response to Hurricane Maria a year ago in Puerto Rico.
"We'll operate without power; we have candles".
"It doesn't matter where you are", he said.
Others were at home hoping for the best.
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"The evacuation was countywide, but since we're not in a flood zone, we weren't really anxious about that", she told VOA.