Super Typhoon Mangkhut tore through the northern tip of the Philippines on Saturday packing winds of more than 200 km per hour (124 mph) along with torrential rain, killing three people and causing floods, landslides and power outages.
Inland South Carolina likely has serious flooding to come, with waters already rising in communities such as Conway near Myrtle Beach - and some rivers may not crest for another three days.
"I had a lot of fear initially but I'm glad to be inside and safe", said Zelda Allen, 74, a retired tax accountant from Hampstead, North Carolina, who was riding out the storm at Wilmington's Hotel Ballast with her husband. Dozens more were pulled from a collapsed motel. Preliminary reports show more than 30 inches of rain in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, according to the U.S Geological Survey. It tore roofs and facades off buildings and toppled trees.
"I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth", he said.
The tropical storm's maximum sustained winds are holding steady, remaining at around 50 miles per hour, with higher gusts in heavy rainbands over water, the NWS said.
A woman in Hampstead, in Pender County, died of an apparent heart attack after emergency crews could not clear debris to get to her. "Hurricane Florence is going to continue its violent grind across our state for days".
The flooding soon spread into SC, swamping places like North Myrtle Beach, in a resort area known for its white sands and multitude of golf courses.
Hurricane Florence remains a significant storm surge and flash flood event, according to the latest public advisory from the National Hurricane Center.
Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of an environmental disaster from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.
Forecasters say the center of the eye of Hurricane Florence is about to make landfall near Wrightsville, North Carolina.
"The size of the tree is not something you could simply cut with a chainsaw and remove and then quickly extricate", he said.
With tropical storm-force winds swirling 350 miles wide, Florence continued deluging the Carolinas on Saturday morning after pushing surging seas far ashore. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with almost 10 centimetres of water, he calculated.
North Carolina alone is forecast to get 9.6 trillion gallons, enough to cover the Tar Heel state to a depth of about 10 inches.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster asked people to remain patient during a last-minute news conference before Hurricane Florence begins to impact the state.
Some of the worst flooding was in New Bern, where authorities were enforcing a curfew.
"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the city tweeted around 2am. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU".
Still, some residents ignored calls to evacuate.
"The wind was so hard, the waters were so hard ..."
Eudy said his family stayed in their home partly to protect their house. She retreated and was eventually rescued by a boat crew; 140 more awaited assistance.
Ashley Warren and boyfriend Chris Smith managed to paddle away from their home in a boat with their two dogs and were left her shaken.
"I honestly cried", Kittrell said.