It's being described as a flood event of "biblical proportions".
"New Bern is just not used to this level of a hurricane", with damaging gales, rains, storm surge and flash flooding, said New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw.
A mother and her baby died when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Florence flattened trees, crumbled roads and knocked out power to more than 700,000 homes and businesses, and the assault wasn't anywhere near an end.
A woman and her baby were killed when a tree fell on their house and several more storm-related deaths were reported Friday as Hurricane Florence slammed into the Carolinas, dousing the eastern USA states with torrential rain and causing rivers to burst their banks.
A woman and her child were killed after a tree fell on their house in Wilmington, North Carolina. The child's father was taken to a hospital.
Local authorities reported a death in Pender County when downed trees prevented emergency units from reaching a woman with a medical condition.
WITN is reporting the Duplin County Sheriff said two people were killed outside Kenansville and the third happened in Kornegay.
Rescue crews in Onslow County helped evacuate 70 people from a Jacksonville hotel early Friday after the roof collapsed and rain rushed in.
Florence's forward movement during the day slowed to a near-standstill - sometimes it was going no faster than a human can walk - and that enabled it to pile on the rain.
In the besieged city of New Bern, rescuers had plucked more than 200 people from rising waters by midmorning, but about 150 more had to wait as conditions worsened and a storm surge reached 10 feet, officials said. "To those in the storm's path, if you can hear me, please stay sheltered in place". The storm knocked out power to more than 890,000 homes and businesses, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the United States electrical grid. He said parts of North Carolina had seen storm surges - the bulge of seawater pushed ashore by the hurricane - as high as 10 feet.
People being rescued by the US Army in New Bern North Carolina
The National Hurricane Centre downgraded it to a tropical storm yesterday afternoon, but warned it would dump as much as 30 to 40 inches of rain on the southeastern coast of North Carolina and into the northeastern coast of SC in spots.
Florence would not be the first test of North Carolina manure pits, or "lagoons". Fifty centimetres were reported by early Friday afternoon in the town of Oriental.
The National Hurricane Centre said Florence will eventually break up over the southern Appalachians and make a right hook to the northeast, its rainy remnants moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England by the middle of next week. Calls for help kept coming in as the wind picked up and the tide arrived, said city public information officer Colleen Roberts."These are folks who chose to stay and ride out the storm for whatever reason, despite having a mandatory evacuation", she said. "These are folks who are maybe in one-story buildings and they're seeing the floodwaters rise".
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.
Waves from Hurricane Florence pound the Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle. It is believed he died after he was blown down while going outside to check on his dogs.
"It's insane", he said in a phone interview.
It was later downgraded to a tropical storm.
Almost 900,000 homes and businesses were without power in the Carolinas early on Friday, utility officials said.
Duke Energy, a power company in the Carolinas, estimated that one million to three million customers could lose electricity because of the storm and that it could take weeks to restore.
Storm surges, punishing winds and rain are turning some towns into rushing rivers - and the storm is expected to crawl over parts of the Carolinas into the weekend, pounding some of the same areas over and over.