Tornadoes are also a threat, with the NHC saying that "a few tornadoes are possible in southeastern North Carolina and northeastern SC".
"I left Wilmington like a woman leaving home after a disagreement with her partner".
"The sun rose this morning on an extremely risky situation and it's getting worse", Cooper said, calling Florence a "thousand-year rain event".
"The only difference is, back then it was within 14 days", he said. Governor Roy Cooper's office said he died while plugging in a generator. Some areas are grappling with intense flooding, while many in the city of New Bern required rescue in the early hours of the day.
Florence "is twice the size of Hurricane Hugo", which tore through the Carolinas in 1989, New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw told "GMA".
A speed boat sits wedged in bushes in the parking lot of a waterfront hotel in New Bern, North Carolina, on September 14, 2018.
A fallen tree lies atop the crushed roof of a fast food restaurant after the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018.
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Peggy Perry, who was rescued by another group in New Bern, said rising water forced her into the upper level of her home.
Besides federal and state emergency crews, rescuers were being helped by volunteers from the "Cajun Navy" who also turned up in Houston during Hurricane Harvey to carry out water rescues.
"The storm surge alone has overwhelmed the city of New Bern", Cooper said. "You're going to have flooding miles and miles inland", the center's director, Ken Graham, said.
The storm has already had an impact on scores of residents, Cooper said.
Power outages increased throughout Friday. About 20,000 people sought sanctuary in 157 shelters. We have 2 out-of-state on the way to help us. So far 20.37 inches of rainfall has been measured and, as of Friday, 105 miles per hour winds were recorded. The system was downgraded to a tropical storm on Friday afternoon but remained a slow-moving destructive storm. Florence had been a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 120-mph winds as of Thursday, but dropped to a Category 1 hurricane before coming ashore. The storm is expected to lumber into far southeastern North Carolina and eastern SC through Saturday, punishing the area with rain and damaging winds.
It has now been downgraded to a tropical storm but continues to wreak havoc as heavy rain is flooding several areas in the south-west and winds continue to pull infrastructure apart.
"A slow westward to west-southwestward motion is expected through Saturday".