The NWS says southern and central portions of North Carolina into far northeast SC are expected to report an additional 10 to 15 inches of rainfall - with storm totals between 30 and 40 inches along the coastal areas south of Cape Hatteras.
North Carolina corrections officials said more than 3,000 people were relocated from adult prisons and juvenile centers in the path of Florence, and more than 300 county prisoners were transferred to state facilities.
Florence is moving slowly across eastern SC, and according to the National Hurricane Center is producing "catastrophic flooding over North and SC".
With tropical storm-force winds swirling 350 miles wide, Florence took down trees, power lines and damaged buildings. The homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions.
The coastline is under immediate threat of increasingly high water levels due to winds pushing surges onshore, with large and destructive waves. More than 60 people had to be rescued in another town as a cinderblock motel collapsed at the height of the storm's fury.
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 deadly Tropical Storm Florence is so ferocious, it's uprooting everything, even tightly-bolted historic statues.
A fallen tree is shown after it crashed through the home where a woman and her baby were killed in Wilmington, North Carolina, after Hurricane Florence made landfall on September 14, 2018.
Florence drove almost 1 million people from their homes and almost 700,000 lost power.
More than 20,000 people are staying in 157 emergency shelters in North Carolina, Cooper said.
Forecasters said the storm will eventually break up over the southern Appalachians and make a sharp rightward swing to the northeast, its rainy remnants moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England by the middle of the week. Several places already had more than 40 centimetres of rain, and Oriental, North Carolina got more than 50 centimetres in just a few hours. Newport, N.C., has already accumulated 23.7 inches.
In New Bern, population 29,000, flooding on the Neuse River left 500 people in peril.
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. Rescue crews used boats to carry more than 360 people from rising water, while many of their neighbors awaited help. "I love hurricanes. But this one has been an experience for me", she said.