More than 360 people had been rescued by midafternoon Friday, hours after then-Hurricane Florence swept through, but another 140 were still waiting for help, city spokeswoman Colleen Roberts told The Associated Press.
The NWS predicted Florence could drop up to eight months' worth of rain in two or three days. When Florence started battering eastern North Carolina with record rainfall, the Neuse and Trent rivers began to swell - and combined with high tide, made for unsafe flooding. Emerald Isle is about 84 miles (135 kilometers) north of Wilmington.
Authorities in New Bern said more than 100 people had to be saved from floods and that the downtown area was underwater. The city of New Bern tweeted to its residents early Friday morning, "We have 2 out-of-state FEMA teams here for swift water rescue".
"We're still going to get catastrophic inland flooding from heavy rains, and multibillion-dollar storm-surge damage along the coast where it hits", said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground Inc in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We are on the bad side of this storm.
The governor of North Carolina, where Florence is expected to make landfall at noon local time on Friday, said surviving the storm would be a test of "endurance, teamwork, common sense, and patience".
As of early Friday, officials with the S.C. Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) were still urging evacuations as the storm approached the Palmetto State.
Prisoners were affected, too.
SCV/Christopher Collura via ABC News/Twitter; Chip Somodevilla/GettyA composite image shows a gas station canopy being dismantled by high winds in Topsail Beach, North Carolina, and residents wading through flooded streets in New Bern, North Carolina.
Forecasters warned that drenching rains of 1 to 3 1/2 feet (30 centimetres to 1 metre) as the storm crawls westward across North and SC could trigger epic flooding well inland over the next few days. The hurricane officially hit the East Coast around 7:40 a.m. ET as a Category 1 storm.
Spanish moss waved in the trees as the winds picked up in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City. They tried desperately to return to their homes as the Neuse River overflowed its banks.
Coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely empty, and schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia.
Two days ago, Florence was chugging toward the east coast at seventeen miles per hour. Its winds were down to 45 miles per hour (75 kph).
The 11 p.m. ET National Hurricane Center update warned of "catastrophic freshwater flooding" in parts of North and SC, and of continuing life-threatening storm surges and strong winds overnight as Florence moves slowly west-southwestward over extreme eastern SC.
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.
Forecasters said conditions will deteriorate as the storm pushes ashore early Friday near the North Carolina-South Carolina line and makes its way slowly inland.
Video below shows huge waves and storm surge crashing into a structure in North Topsail Beach.
Sample said that when he looked outside of his house, which is about 1,000 yards from the beach, he saw the rain pooling up on the street and what looked like storm surge coming up the road.
The hurricane was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico past year. President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency on the federal level Tuesday for the Carolinas and Virginia.
Florence was inching along Friday night, trapping people in flooded homes and promising days of destruction and human suffering.
"We'll operate without power; we have candles".
"And from that point, we started hearing where people were saying on phone calls, 'I love you, ' to their family members because they were not sure they were going to get out of it alive", she said Friday.
"This is our only home".
Hurricane Florence turns deadly, unleashing torrential floods on Carolinas
George Zaytoun chose not to evacuate his house ahead of the storm, which had been deemed a Category 4 hurricane on Wednesday. North of the landfall , another 150 people near the town of New Bern required rescue from floods along the Neuse River.