Other areas throughout the region reported flooded and impassable roads, downed trees and power lines and power outages of more than 125,000 customers.
Jacob Fernandez (left) and Josh Fernandez play around on the tree that fell near their home as Hurricane Florence passed through the area on Friday in Bolivia, N.C.
The centre of the slow-moving storm, downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane after it came ashore Friday afternoon, was almost stalled over SC early Saturday, about 55 kilometres west of Myrtle Beach, moving west-southwest at just 8 km/h and scooping massive amounts of moisture from the sea.
On Saturday some residents tried to return home, driving through flooded highways armed with chainsaws to clear fallen pine trees that covered the road. Forecasters say "it can not be emphasized enough that the most serious hazard posed by the slow-moving storm is extremely heavy rainfall, which will cause disastrous flooding that will be spreading inland".
"This system is unloading an epic amount of rainfall: in some places, measured in feet, not inches".
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. More than 60 people had to be rescued in another town as a cinderblock motel collapsed at the height of the storm's fury.
"Right now we've rescued over 400 people. We didn't know where to go", she said.
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Even miles away from the Atlantic, North Carolina residents in low-lying areas were boarding up and emptying stores. On its current track, Florence is expected to hit the Carolinas and Virginia the hardest, the NHC said.
With flood waters advancing rapidly in many communities, around 50 stranded people had been airlifted out by helicopter in North Carolina, said Petty Officer Michael Himes of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Footage released by NASA shows Hurricane Florence as seen from the International Space Station after it made landfall near Wrightsville beach in North Carolina on September 14th, leaving five people dead. Hughes said the vehicle's roof is what struck the tree.
Firefighters said the area had not been in the zone under evacuation orders. A woman died in Hampstead, North Carolina after having a heart attack.
"Maybe the communities of color that are expected to feel the greatest burden of a disaster like this don't have time to have a conversation like this with the media because they're fighting for their lives, they're fighting for their very survival", she said. Also, a 77-year-old man was apparently knocked down by the wind and died after going out to check on his hunting dogs, Lenoir County authorities said, and the governor's office said a man was electrocuted while trying to connect extension cords in the rain.
More than 20,000 people were in 157 shelters in North Carolina, with almost 6,000 in SC shelters, officials said.
The White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump had spoken with state and local officials, assuring them the federal government was prepared to help.
As of 8 p.m., Florence was centered about 65 miles (100 kilometers) east-southeast of Columbia, the SC capital, crawling west at 2 mph (4 kph) - not even as fast as a person walking.
The military announced Saturday it was deploying almost 200 soldiers to assist in storm-related response and recovery efforts, along with 100 trucks and equipment. Many of them are boat owners, who help rescue stricken flood victims. North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, had about 7 inches.
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