The casualties include a mother and baby who were killed when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington, North Carolina. NBC news reported a woman called for help, but died of a heart attack because emergency crews were unable to reach her due to trees that had fallen in the road.
City officials sent out an dramatic tweet about 2am Friday as rivers swelled, tides crested and the rain wouldn't stop, and people found themselves trapped in their homes as the water rose. TV station WNCN said the 78-year-old victim and was "trying to connect two extension cords outside in the rain".
North Carolina's governor, Roy Cooper, labelled the storm "an uninvited brute who doesn't want to leave".
Cooper cited a National Weather Service forecast that said almost the entire state could be covered in several feet of water.
Inland flooding near New Bern, North Carolina caused by Hurricane Florence's storm surge as predicted by the ADCIRC computer model. Now its maximum sustained winds are about 50mph (80km/h) and it's a tropical storm.
A slowing tropical storm Florence continues to creep along the Carolinas today.
When Florence started battering eastern North Carolina with record rainfall, the rivers began to swell - and combined with high tide, made for risky flooding. About 4,300 homes were damaged, she said, affecting a third of the small town's population.More news: Hurricane Florence causes weatherman to evacuate during live TV coverage
"I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth", he said. They ventured out in life jackets into waste-deep water to tie the boat and another floating by to a tree. Eudy and his family stayed home in New Bern in part to protect their house. "If the number seems really insane high, you always have to have some suspicion until we can actually get out and verify it". Both cities could see 6 to 10 inches of rain with locally higher amounts.
Parts of North and SC were forecast to get as much as 40 inches of rain (1 meter).
About 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders, and millions of others live in areas likely to be affected by the storm.
By Saturday morning the winds weakened to 50mph but the storm's slow speed means that communities in North Carolina are receiving a prolonged battering by torrential rain.
The White House said Friday U.S. President Donald Trump will travel to areas hit by Hurricane Florence next week, once it has been determined that his travel would not disrupt any rescue or recovery efforts. Wind gusts of 105 miles per hour - the highest recorded since 1958 - were reported in Wilmington Friday morning.
Utility companies said millions were expected to lose power and that restoring it could take weeks.
Rainfall has been heavy and consistent in the areas of the storm, with Florence expected to cascade up to 40 inches of rain across southern and central portions of North Carolina into far northeastern SC. North Carolina Emergency Management and FEMA have staged supplies and equipment strategically to respond to the storm, and first responders across the state are ready. At least seven people have died, a toll authorities fear will rise as the storm crawls westward across SC.
Over 1,400 flights have been cancelled, according to FlightAware.com, as most of the coastal region's airports are closed to ride out the storm.