In New Bern, about 90 miles northeast of Wilmington at the confluence of two rivers, Florence overwhelmed the town of 30,000 and left the downtown area under water.
North Carolina's governor Roy Cooper said: "Know that water is rising fast everywhere, even in places that don't typically flood".
Stream gauges across the region showed water levels steadily rising, with forecasts calling for rivers to crest Sunday and Monday at or near record levels.
And to look at Florence specifically, "it's very likely that climate change has warmed the ocean such that the hurricane's intense rainfall is more destructive than without global warming", said Weather Underground Meteorology Director Jeff Masters, a former hurricane hunter.
The Philippines tends to get hit almost every year, the Carolinas far less frequently though with lots of close calls, Maue said.
Florence made 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, coming ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.
Oil has steepest drop in a month as economic concerns threaten demand
Meanwhile, Hurricane Florence is set to park above the Carolinas coastline, threatening fuel markets along the US East Coast. Brent rude prices fell in August however extra fair lately rose to 2-month highs round $eighty a barrel.
In Lenoir County a 78-year-old man was electrocuted while trying to connect extension cords and another man died after being blown away by high winds while checking on his dogs. It was downgraded from a hurricane late Friday, but not before bringing catastrophic flooding to the Carolinas.
There were 974,000 homes in the Carolinas without power on Saturday morning.
In New Bern, a riverfront city near the North Carolina coast that saw storm surges up to 10 feet (3 meters), authorities were rescuing stranded residents and taking stock of damages.
With the emergence of Florence, some place in the US has been drenched because of a stalled hurricane for four years in a row, storm surge expert Hal Needham said.
"This is one of the most devastating hurricanes we've ever had", Mayor Dana Outlaw told CNN.
Annazette Riley-Cromartie said she and her family thought they'd be safe in their brick house in eastern North Carolina.
Hurricane Florence: Storm downgraded but threat remains
The National Hurricane Center said a gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, reported 6.3 feet (1.92 meters) of inundation. An extremely powerful hurricane is forecast to make landfall in the southern part of the United States later this week.
The National Hurricane Center said as much as 40in (102cm) was expected on the southeastern coast of North Carolina and part of northeastern SC.
"Residents should not let their guard down", North Carolina Emergency Management tweeted. We got thrown into mailboxes. "We got thrown into mailboxes, houses, trees", said Holt, who had stayed at home because of a doctor's appointment that was later canceled.
"It's the worst feeling in the world to hear people yelling for help, and you can't do anything", she said.
"Our hearts go out to the families of those who died in this storm", Cooper said in a statement.
Hurricane Florence is an nearly impossibly rare threat. Duke Energy, the area's biggest utility company, said that figure could rise to three million and restoring power could take weeks. On Friday afternoon, it was traveling at just 3 to 5 miles per hour, still near the coast.
Cline said July was the wettest ever in that part of North Carolina, and the water table rose 21 inches higher than normal. The evacuation zone included part of the city of Fayetteville, population 200,000.
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Both Wilmington International Airport and Fort Macon suffered gusts of 105 miles per hour , the National Weather Service said. It was downgraded to Category 1 before coming ashore on Friday near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, North Carolina.