As forecasters warned the hurricane could lead to potentially catastrophic flooding.
They have made clear that this event is all about the water - which the storm has delivered in devastating quantity.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) downgraded it to a tropical storm on Friday, but warned it would dump as much as 30 to 40 inches (76-102 cm) of rain on the south-eastern coast of North Carolina and part of north-eastern SC.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster asked people to remain patient during a last-minute news conference before Hurricane Florence begins to impact the state.
"We're very familiar in Columbia with the flooding of 2015", McMaster said.
Relief will not come quickly. It came as rivers swelled, tides crested and the rain wouldn't stop.
Reilly sells real estate in the Charleston area has seen his share of storms over the past two decades, including Tropical Storm Gaston in 2004 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. It was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane before coming ashore near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, North Carolina.
There is really nowhere for the water to go.
"Little rough, but we're all out", the station tweeted around 9 p.m. Thursday. "We all know that".
Resident Jay Manning said he and his wife watched with alarm as water filled the street. Five hundred National Guard troops had responded to calls by 11 a.m. Friday.
"I have no generator", said Petra Langston, a nurse. "Sixty mile-per-hour winds, shingles flying off their own homes, and they're here working for everyone else". Its designation then was "potential tropical cyclone six". As of Friday afternoon, the storm was moving across southeastern North Carolina at 3 miles per hour.
"There's nothing to steer it".
The No. 1 mission right now, Cooper said, is to save lives. "It's like a bubble with no wind, it just floats".
The Red Cross said it had to cancel many blood drives in the area due to Florence and is urging residents in non-impacted areas to give blood.
The coast has been battered, and the mountains appear to be next.
The North Carolina State Emergency Response Team released a statement Saturday night indicating a, 81-year-old man died in Wayne County after falling and hitting his head as he packed to evacuate on Friday. As of Friday morning, Atlantic Beach, a town on the state's Outer Banks barrier islands, already had received 30 inches (76 cm) of rain, the U.S. Geological Service said.
"You evacuate from water", Cline said.
"If you seek to prey upon the citizens of Brunswick County, we're going to do everything we can to lock you up", Ingram warned.
"Florence has slowed to a crawl as expected, and this will only exacerbate the flooding situation for the Carolinas from now through Sunday". Flash flooding is a threat in those states as well.
She wasn't as lucky when a property she owns in Florida was heavily damaged by Hurricane Irma a year ago. Floyd, like Florence, hit Wilmington directly and dumped record amounts of rain.
Video footage showed parking lots in the riverfront town of New Bern turn into shallow lakes of dirty gray water as heavy rain fell.
Rescue workers in North Carolina meanwhile were scrambling to save people stranded in their homes. Duke Energy said late Friday that it anticipates 1 million to 3 million outages in the Carolinas, and that full power restoration could take weeks.
The eyewall of Florence struck the coast before dawn.
Downtown New Bern, on the Neuse River also is flooded. "The power is going to go out".
By early afternoon, Florence's winds had weakened to 75 miles per hour, just barely a hurricane and well below the storm's terrifying Category 4 peak of 140 miles per hour earlier in the week. The few cars out on a main street in Wilmington had to swerve to avoid fallen trees, metal debris and power lines. He was blown down at 8 a.m.at his home on Middle Street. Family members found the man's body, according to Lenoir County Emergency Services.
Wareheim said so far the wind has only knocked down branches and limbs small enough to be carried.
"I about jumped out of my skin", he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday morning.
"There's a great temptation to want to go back east and to view you property", he said.
"WPD can confirm the first two fatalities of Hurricane #Florence in Wilmington".
This article was written by Scott Wilson, Patricia Sullivan, Mark Berman and Joel Achenbach, reporters for The Washington Post.