Tropical Storm Florence dumped "epic" amounts of rain on North and SC as it trudged inland on Saturday, triggering risky flooding, toppling trees, cutting power to almost a million homes and businesses while causing at least six deaths.
"Hurricane Florence is going to continue its violent grind across our state for days". But its slow march over the two states, crawling west at only 2 miles per hour (3 km per hour), threatens to leave large parts of the region deluged in the coming days.
He said residents should "expect flooding and potential landslides tonight and into Monday", and warned against driving in the water "no matter how confident you feel or how much you want to get out of the house". By Friday evening, the eye of the storm had moved to SC. Rescue crews have used boats to reach hundreds besieged by the rising waters.
Rivers and creeks rose towards historic levels, threatening flash flooding that could devastate communities and endanger dams, roads and bridges.
Forecasters say catastrophic freshwater flooding is expected over parts of North Carolina and SC ahead.
Police in Wilmington say a mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on their house.
In Wilmington, near where the eye of the storm touched down, trees and power lines were felled and many windows broken. "More than likely it's maybe a mindset of 'we've been through this before, '" he said.
As of 8:00 am (1200 GMT), maximum sustained winds had weakened to near 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour, but the NHC warned residents of unsafe storm surges and "catastrophic flash flooding". Fort Bragg, a sprawling U.S. Army base, is just west of Fayetteville.
Forecasters said that given the storm's size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses and washing over industrial waste sites and hog-manure ponds.
Officials in SC said a 61-year-old woman died when her auto struck a tree that had fallen across a highway near the town of Union.
Multiple deaths have been linked to Hurricane Florence, which has now been downgraded to a tropical storm.
Amanda Tesch, a spokesperson for the Carteret County Emergency Services, said that earlier reports from her office that the death toll has been raised were never correct.
In the besieged city of New Bern, rescuers had plucked more than 200 people from rising waters by midmorning Friday, but about 150 more had to wait as conditions worsened and a storm surge reached 10 feet, officials said. Gigi Charlebois, owner of the Edenton Coffee House on the northern shore of North Carolina's Albemarle Sound, made a decision to stay with her family overnight in the shop's dining room, sleeping on couches, pull-out cots and a mattress.
Meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com said Florence could dump a staggering 18 trillion gallons of rain over a week on North Carolina, South Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland. They tried desperately to return to their homes as the Neuse River overflowed its banks.
"Our friend behind our old house, they have gators swimming in the water".
The White House said President Donald Trump approved making federal funding available in some affected counties.