"We aren't going to try to restore power for quite some time, probably", Outlaw, the mayor, said.
This story was compiled from McClatchy papers in North Carolina, the Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer; and in South Carolina, The State in Columbia, the Beaufort Gazette, The Island Packet in Hilton Head and The Sun News in Myrtle Beach; and supplemented with wire service reports.
Waves slam the Pier House Restaurant in Atlantic Beach, NC, on Thursday.
About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than one million were ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia.
"It will be historic", Baker said of the rain from Florence.
Residents at Trent Court Apartments wait out the weather as rising water gets closer to their doors in New Bern, North Carolina.
Florence was menacing the USA coast just as Super Typhoon Mangkhut was threatening to spur chaos in parts of Asia.
The National Hurricane Center says the eyewall of Hurricane Florence is beginning to reach the North Carolina coast.
"There is still time, but not a lot of time", said Derrec Becker of the South Carolina Department of Emergency Management. "The combination of a unsafe storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline".
Once the centre moves inland, the intensity of the hurricane is set to decrease, according to a forecast discussion posted on the NHC's website. Its designation then was "potential tropical cyclone six". Forecasters said catastrophic freshwater flooding is expected well inland over the next few days as Florence crawls westward across the Carolinas all weekend. Another woman died in Pender County, North Carolina, after suffering a medical condition. He still has peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes in the ground.
The massive system weakened into a tropical storm in the late afternoon but across the region, emergency officials warned that more water was yet to come, with cresting rivers and flash flooding fed by the unending rain. "It's discouraging to see a crop you worked with all year long, nurture it, plant it and see it destroyed".
About 70 people in Jacksonville, North Carolina, had to be moved to safety from a hotel whose structural integrity was threatened by the hurricane.
Along with agriculture, the Carolinas stand as an important regional hub for banking, technology, manufacturing and transportation, accounting for about 4 per cent of US gross domestic product, according to a Bloomberg US economic analysis.
The Cape Fear river crested at 8.27 feet about 3:30 p.m., setting a new record and by Wednesday, the Maccamaw River may climb to 17.1 feet, the National Weather Service's Wilmington office reported, just shy of its record.
"Florence is still a risky storm", said Rebecca Fuller, a meteorologist with Radiant Solutions in Gaithersburg, Maryland.