Later downgraded to a tropical storm, slow-moving Florence arrived over North and SC just after 7am local time on Friday, bringing torrential rain and severe floods. The father was transported to the hospital with injuries.
Members of the North Carolina National Guard finish stacking sand bags under a highway overpass near the Lumber River which is expected to flood from Hurricane Florence's rain in Lumberton, North Carolina, on September 14, 2018.
"This storm is going to continue its violent grind across our state for days", Cooper said.
The storm's center is crawling inland over SC, but its main rain bands largely are over already-saturated North Carolina - setting up what may be days of flooding for some communities.
Florence diminished from hurricane strength as it came ashore on Friday, but the large storm's slow progress across the two states could leave much of the region under water in the coming days, according to forecasters.
As the giant, 400-mile-wide hurricane pounded away, it unloaded heavy rain, flattened trees, chewed up roads and knocked out power to more than 600,000 homes and businesses.
"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", forecasters said, reports CBS News.
Two people in Lenoir County were killed: a 78-year-old Kinston man who was electrocuted when connecting extension cords in the rain and a 77-year-old man who was blown down by the wind when he went to check on his hunting dogs.
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More than 760,000 customers in North Carolina were without power and 21,000 people were being housed in 157 shelters across the state. It tore roofs and facades off buildings and toppled trees.
Since being shared online just 12 hours ago, the video has collected over 10 million views and more than 3 lakh "likes" on Twitter alone.More news: Rain and wind from Hurricane Florence begin lashing United States coast
"While the weather conditions have improved, motorists should be cautious of fallen trees, downed power lines, and standing water in and around roadways".
Shaken after seeing waves crashing on the Neuse River just outside his house in New Bern, restaurant owner and hurricane veteran Tom Ballance wished he had evacuated.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned people: "Today the threat becomes a reality".
By Saturday morning, top sustained winds had weakened to 50 mph as it moved farther inland at 2 mph about 35 miles west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Ryan Maue, a meteorologist at weather.us, said the storm will dump approximately 10 trillion gallons of water on North Carolina, about a quarter of the annual total.
Still, he said: "I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth".
The rest of SC and North Carolina into southwestern Virginia will experience 5 to 10 inches, with isolated totals up to 15 inches.
"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the city of New Bern tweeted around 2:30 a.m.
Sidney Este, whose 71-year-old mother was still inside his house, said: "I'm mostly concerned about the house getting hotter and hotter".
Through the day, the storm's pace slowed even more, from 10 miles per hour Thursday morning to 3 miles per hour by Friday evening.
Parts of West-central Virginia and far eastern West Virginia will see "life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with an elevated risk for landslides", according to the agency.