Other North Carolina fatalities also include three who died 'due to flash flooding and swift water on roadways, ' the Duplin County Sheriff's Office reported. More than 360 people have been carried to safety since Thursday night amid rising waters from a river swelled by both rain and salty storm surge.
Two people died in Lenoir County.
"Unfortunately, Duke Energy has spent years lobbying and litigating and still has not removed the coal ash from its unsafe riverfront pits in the coastal area, some of which are in the floodplain", said Frank Holleman, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center who has battled the company in court.
Around 676,000 homes and businesses were without power in North Carolina, along with 119,000 in SC. But officials said the state's many lagoons of toxic hog waste had so far withstood the storm.
"There's mud all over the floor and the wood floors have buckled", she said, adding they planned to return to her brother's house because of the musty smell that pervades their home.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said many rivers across the state still haven't crested.
"In addition to the flash flood and flooding threat, landslides are also possible in the higher terrain of the southern and central Appalachians across western North Carolina into southwest Virginia", it said.
Around 50 stranded people were airlifted by helicopter in North Carolina, said Petty Officer Michael Himes of the U.S. Coast Guard.
He and his staff managed to move more than 1,000 mattresses from a low-lying warehouse.
"It's hard to believe it's going to get that high", says Elizabeth Machado, who came to the bridge to check on the river.
The city installed 11 pumps to help deal with the river, but Mayor John Cantey said he wants people living near it to get out.
Already more than two feet of rain has fallen in places and forecasters warned there could be an additional 1 1/2 feet before Sunday is out, as the chance of thunderstorms and tornadoes increased.
"As conditions change, GPS navigation systems are not keeping up with the road closures and are directing people onto roads that are confirmed closed and/or flooded", the state Transportation Department said on Twitter.
Florence has weakened to a tropical depression, but the death toll continues to rise with at least 15 people dead as of Sunday afternoon, according to the Associated Press.
In an update published at 5:33 a.m. ET on Saturday, the agency said that the storm is now striking SC and has a path through the in-land charted for the next few days. Its winds were down to 45 miles per hour (75 kph).
Neighbor Joel Morris said he saw the tree fall into the road - brought down by strong winds - and tried to signal to Lee to turn around. Dozens of electric fix trucks massed to respond to damage expected to hit central North Carolina as rainwater collected into rivers headed to the coast. That, and the storm's vast circumference of hundreds of miles, means Wilmington will be inundated with rain, the advisory said.
Near the Sutton Power Plant in Wilmington, coal ash leaked from a Duke Energy landfill. In the neighboring town of Trenton, downtown streets were turned to creeks full of brown water.
Near the flooded-out town of New Bern, where about 455 people had to be rescued from the swirling flood waters, water completely surrounded churches, businesses and homes.
People clapped and shouted, "Amen!" and "Thank you, Lord".