Jacob Fernandez (left) and Josh Fernandez play around on the tree that fell near their home as Hurricane Florence passed through the area on Friday in Bolivia, N.C.
Forecasters say "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".
At 8 p.m. Friday, Florence was centered about 15 miles (25 kilometers) north-northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and about 55 miles (90 kilometers) east-southeast of Florence, South Carolina.
More than 360 people were rescued as of midafternoon Friday, but another 140 were still waiting for help, city spokeswoman Colleen Roberts told the Associated Press. Authorities warned about potential landslides and numerous roads were closed.
More than 800,000 people in North Carolina were without power and 21,000 people were being housed in 157 shelters across the state.
In Wilmington, near where the eye of the storm touched down, trees and power lines were felled and many windows broken.
The National Hurricane Center says Florence is about to make landfall in North Carolina bringing with it life-threatening storm surges and hurricane force winds.
Any returning evacuees have been warned that flooding may last in the eastern Carolinas into next week, inclusive of flooding across roadways and into homes. Fort Bragg, a sprawling U.S. Army base, is just west of Fayetteville.
Entire communities could be "wiped away" by historic flooding, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Friday. Another person died from a cardiac arrest when emergency services could not reach her, due to downed trees blocking their path.
President Donald Trump announced Saturday morning that he has declared North Carolina a major disaster as Florence, now downgraded to a tropical storm, continues to dump record-setting rain on the Wilmington region.
As the storm center shifts farther inland, counterclockwise rotation around the center of circulation will continue to pull in loads of tropical moisture from the Atlantic Ocean and pushing up against the more rugged terrain of central and western North Carolina.
"It's like being stalked by a turtle", Federal Emergency Management Agency official Jeff Byard told reporters.
A North Carolina city says about 70 people have been rescued from a hotel whose structural integrity is being threatened by Hurricane Florence.
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Emergency declarations were in force in Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
In North Carolina, the city of New Bern was particularly hard hit.
New Bern, N.C., quickly became a trouble spot as floodwaters rose.
The father was injured in the incident and was transported to a hospital, officials said.
USA correspondent Cordelia Lynch, who is in New Bern, said: "This community in the weeks and months to come is up against a great deal of flooding".
More than 20,000 people were in 157 shelters in North Carolina, with 7,000 in SC shelters. Gigi Charlebois, owner of the Edenton Coffee House on the northern shore of North Carolina's Albemarle Sound, chose to stay with her family overnight in the shop's dining room, sleeping on couches, pull-out cots and a mattress.
Her husband went to see if he could assist them but the water was chest high, she said.
"Our friend behind our old house, they have gators swimming in the water".
"It's unsafe, a lot of trees", Charlebois said.