National Weather Service forecaster Brandon Locklear predicted Florence would drop up to eight months' worth of rain in two or three days. "If you're called to go, you need to go".
High tides in Wilmington, North Carolina on Friday will be mid-afternoon and again early Saturday morning.
With one grueling day behind them, the Carolinas on Friday grappled with rising water and cascading misery from a deadly and agonizingly slow-moving Tropical Storm Florence expected to linger through the weekend.
Students of East Carolina University's Coastal Storms class use anemometers to measure wind speeds at Union Point Park in New Bern, N.C., on Thursday.
According to the National Hurricane Centre's 8am AST (1pm BST) advisory: "Florence remains a very large storm, which will produce risky impacts across southeastern North Carolina and northeastern SC for the next couple of days".
Forecasters said conditions will continue to deteriorate as the storm makes its way slowly inland.
At time of writing, Hurricane Florence is inching towards the coastline, and the combination of intense rainfall and gnarly swell threaten to engulf low-lying land in the region.
"The slower it moves, the longer these rain bands take", National Hurricane Center Ken Graham warned.
There have been no immediate reports of storm-related deaths or serious injuries, but officials said more than 100 people were rescued in New Bern, as the downtown area of the city was under water.
The National looks at the science behind Hurricane Florence and why it's being called a once-in-a-generation storm.
As of 5 p.m. Friday, forecasters say Florence is now a tropical storm but will continue to threaten North and SC with powerful winds and catastrophic freshwater flooding.
Florence's 18 trillion gallons is as much water as there is in the entire Chesapeake Bay. It's also enough to cover the entire state of Texas with almost 4 inches (10 centimeters) of water.
On Friday, coastal streets in the Carolinas flowed with frothy ocean water, and pieces of torn-apart buildings flew through the air. The few cars out on a main street in Wilmington had to swerve to avoid fallen trees, metal debris and power lines.
Airlines canceled more than 2,100 flights through Sunday.
The wind howled and sheets of rain splattered against windows of a hotel before dawn in Wilmington, where Sandie Orsa of Wilmington sat in a lobby lit by emergency lights after the power failed.
Videos on social media show the water reaching the windows of some houses in the Belhaven area.
"In a matter of seconds, my house was flooded up to the waist, and now it is to the chest", she said. Through the day, the storm's pace slowed even more, from 10 miles per hour Thursday morning to 3 miles per hour by Friday evening. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.
Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it's unclear how many did.
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It was expected to begin pushing its way westward across SC later in the day, in a watery siege that could go on all weekend. The fear is that during that slow march west, it'll drop torrential rains, flooding low-lying areas and overwhelming rivers.
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