With close to 90 of the state's 100 counties setting up their emergency management offices for this storm, all signs point to an even longer recovery from Florence.
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 75 centimetres and counting, obliterating the mark set in 1999, when Hurricane Floyd dropped just over 60 centimetres on the state.
"Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless", Cooper said.
Police said 150 to 200 residents have been rescued earlier on Friday and 150 or more were still awaiting rescue.
Kim Adams makes her way to her home that is surrounded by flood waters after Florence passed through the area on September 15, 2018 in Southport, North Carolina.
As much as 30 to 40 inches (76-102 cm) of rain could fall on coastal areas in North and SC, the National Hurricane Center said. Authorities expect the death toll to rise in the coming days.
Meanwhile, tragedy struck one family in Wilmington when a tree fell on a house; a mother and a child were killed.
In Lenoir County a 78-year-old man was electrocuted while trying to connect extension cords and another man died after being blown away by high winds while checking on his dogs.
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In Pender County, a woman died from a heart attack after paramedics were not able to get to her.
But the wind is not the main threat to people and property from the storm; it's thestorm surgeandrainfall, which combined have caused serious flooding in the low-lying coastal regions of the Carolinas.
More than 1 million people, mainly in North Carolina, were without power a day after Florence made landfall a few miles east of Wilmington as a howling Category 1 hurricane. "We face walls of water". Electricity remained out for much of the city, known for its historic mansions, with power lines lying across roads like wet strands of spaghetti.
"I can not overstate it: Floodwaters are rising, and if you aren't watching for them, you are risking your life", Governor Roy Cooper said.
The storm was expected to move across parts of southeastern North Carolina and eastern SC on Friday and Saturday, then head north over the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC said.
That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with almost 4 inches (10 centimeters) of water, he calculated.
Stream gauges across the region showed water levels steadily rising, with forecasts calling for rivers to crest Sunday and Monday at or near record levels. That, and the storm's vast circumference of hundreds of miles, means Wilmington will be inundated with rain, the advisory said.
Hurricane Florence is dumping rain on North Carolina and pushing a storm surge taller than most humans onto communities near the coast. Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it was unclear how many did. A group of deer were spotted swimming behind a CBS news correspondent Adriana Diaz's right shoulder while she was covering flooding in Jacksonville, North Carolina. "Nobody expected this", a rescued resident, Tom Ballance, toldThe Weather Channel. In previous hurricanes in North Carolina, residents lived in trailers while they rebuilt or found permanent housing.
23 aviation rescues, and counting.