By Friday evening, the centre of the storm had moved to eastern SC, with maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour.
Over 60 people had to be pulled out of a collapsing motel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and hundreds were saved as water levels rose. "We are totally prepared", Trump said at the White House. "But I think we're ready". The homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions. We will have tropical storm force winds and rain and storm surge continues to be our main concern with extreme flooding.
Keith Acre of North Carolina's Department of Emergency Management said: "This has been a really large evacuation and sheltering operation, probably the largest we've done, so that has not been an east lift".
"I've been through hurricanes before", he says. A Doppler radar picture in the background that kept rolling amid the silence showed Florence swirling toward the coast. As Cooper said, "There's nowhere for the water to go".
People survey the damage on Front Street in downtown New Bern, North Carolina. "Right now it's too early to say if anyone should be getting rid of their supplies just yet".
Authorities in New Bern, a town of about 30,000 people that dates to the early 18th century, said more than 100 people had to be saved from floods and that the downtown area was underwater. In Craven County, New Bern's mayor says the town has seen historic flooding, with as much as 10 feet of water reported in some places.
"More people die from storm surge than any proponent of hurricanes", Kottlowsk tells TIME. New Bern police urged anyone who needs assistance or know of people who need assistance to call 911 operators and give specific details, like the person's name, location and possible phone numbers.
NHC says Florence has weakened to a tropical storm
More than 60 people had to be rescued in another town as a cinderblock motel collapsed at the height of the storm's fury. Authorities in New Bern said more than 100 people had to be saved from floods and that the downtown area was underwater.
The Weather Channel voiced support for one of its reporters on Friday after a video of him reporting during Hurricane Florence went viral online.
That said, the storm is still expected to stall once it hits the Wilmington coast, with weather officials early Thursday raising the expected total rainfall for Wilmington to 35 inches - weather officials had predicted 30 inches for Wilmington in briefings released Wednesday. The agency adds that people trapped by flooding should "never enter attics or crawl spaces".
New Bern, the city where Pepsi was invented in a drugstore, was still experiencing winds in the 70 miles per hour range Friday afternoon.
The slow-moving, hurricane - downgraded to a tropical storm around 5 p.m. Friday - is expected to linger over the area this weekend continuing to create a risky situation.
Florence arrived at the Carolina coast as a Category 1 storm, with winds far slower than the fearsome 150 miles per hour of just a few days ago. This is expected to cause "catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding".
Immigration officers have been dispatched to help with response and recovery as Florence lashes North and SC with life-threatening winds, rain and floods.
Hurricane Florence dropped record-setting rain and was blamed for five deaths in North Carolina.
Forecasters say catastrophic freshwater flooding is expected over parts of North Carolina and SC ahead.