Though Florence's shrieking winds diminished from hurricane force as it came ashore, forecasters said the sheer size of the 350-mile-wide storm and its painfully slow progress across North and SC in the coming days could leave much of the region under water.
A man sits on a park bench in a flooded park as the Cape Fear River rises above its usual height in Wilmington, North Carolina, on September 15, 2018.
At least four people were killed.
About 760,000 customers are without power in North Carolina on Saturday.
On Saturday some residents tried to return home, driving through flooded highways armed with chainsaws to clear fallen pine trees that covered the road.
Cooper said others should not follow suit.
He also reminded people the bulk of storm-related deaths occur from drowning in floodwaters.
"I can not overstate it: flood waters are rising".
Some towns have already seen 60cm of rain in two days, with totals forecast to top 1m in places.
Storm surges - the bulge of ocean water pushed ashore by the hurricane - were as high as 10 feet. "If those shelters fill up, we will establish more shelters", Cooper said.
With flood waters advancing rapidly in many communities, around 50 stranded people had been airlifted out by helicopter in North Carolina, said Petty Officer Michael Himes of the U.S. Coast Guard.
The doors of many homes suffered so much wind damage they appeared to have been kicked in, while the city's beloved fibre-glass bear statues, which are sponsored by local businesses, were floating down streets.
In one piece of good news authorities said that 16 wild ponies of hurricane-struck Ocracoke Island, located off the North Carolina coast, were safe.
A mother and her eight-month-old baby were killed Friday when a tree fell on a house, according to a tweet from police in Wilmington, N.C. The father was transported to a hospital for treatment.
"You evacuate from water", Cline said.
Local authorities reported a death in Pender County when downed trees prevented emergency units from reaching a woman with a medical condition.
Holt, who has diabetes and clogged arteries, said she stayed for doctor's appointments that were canceled at the last minute.
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.
Authorities in the U.S. state of North Carolina have warned residents that flooding could get worse.
The Weather Channel's Mike Seidel was seemingly battling to stay upright as he filmed a piece in North Carolina - only for two pedestrians to calmly stroll past in the background.
The White House yesterday said President Donald Trump had approved making federal funding available in some counties.
Florence has been downgraded to a tropical storm with diminished winds, but it has stalled over the Wilmington region as predicted and will continue drenching the area with historic and catastrophic rain, the National Hurricane Center said in a 5 a.m. briefing. Disaster response efforts are underway. "Don't make yourself someone who needs to be rescued".
The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Florence has finally made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.
Morehead City, North Carolina, had received 23 inches of rain by Friday night, and forecasters warned on Saturday morning that parts of the Carolinas could get up to 15 inches more.