The National Hurricane Center said Florence broke a North Carolina rainfall record that had stood for nearly 20 years: Preliminary reports showed Swansboro got more than 30 inches and counting, obliterating the mark set in 1999, when Hurricane Floyd dropped just over 24 inches on the state.
About 31 inches (79 centimeters) was reported in Swansboro, on the North Carolina coast.
"Rivers are rising to unsafe levels, and the relentless rains will continue through the weekend", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned on Friday.
"So dramatic! Dude from the weather channel bracing for his life, as 2 dudes just stroll past", said one Twitter user, whose clip has been viewed more than 17 million times.
At 5 p.m., Florence was centered about 50 miles (75 kilometers) west-southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 25 miles (45 kilometers) northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Hurricane-force winds were extending out up to 80 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extended up to 195 miles, the center said.
The Miami-based center had said earlier Friday Florence's arrival would come with "catastrophic" fresh water flooding over portions of the Carolinas. Dozens more were pulled from a collapsed motel.
Florence's eye made landfall over the Wrightsville Beach water tower about 7:15 a.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Wilmington.
The flooding soon spread into SC, swamping places like North Myrtle Beach, in a resort area known for its white sands and multitude of golf courses. They had heeded officials' warnings that the storm was treacherous, with record-setting rains and storm surges not seen in North Carolina in decades.
The mayor said the pier made it through the storm on Thursday but did not survive the rough surf on Friday.
"For overall damage it will be hard at the end of the day, I think, to find a rival for this storm", said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay, or cover the entire state of Texas with almost 4 inches of water. Newport, N.C., has already accumulated 23.7 inches.
New Bern, which has a population of about 30,000, was once the capital of the state's colonial government.
"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the city tweeted during the height of the storm.
Boat teams including volunteers rescued some 360 residents, including Sadie Marie Holt, 67, who first tried to row out of her neighbourhood during Florence's assault.
Zaytoun said he didn't leave his home because he knew he wouldn't have been able to get back to it once the flooding began.
More than 100 people were rescued and up to 75 more were awaiting rescue on Saturday morning, according to a town official. What they found, however, were two dogs and two cats in dire straits.
"Honestly, I grew up in Wilmington".