Emergency workers went door to door urging people to flee Florence's rising waters Saturday and rescuers used inflatable boats to pluck others from homes already submerged as the storm poured on the rain, setting the stage for what could be some of the most disastrous flooding in North Carolina history.
More than 2 feet of rain already had fallen in places, and the drenching went on and on as Florence, a hurricane-turned-tropical storm, practically parked itself over the two states. Forecasters said another 1½ feet could fall by the end of the weekend.
Rivers and creeks rose toward historic levels, threatening flash flooding that could devastate communities.
"I cannot overstate it: Floodwaters are rising, and if you aren't watching for them you are risking your life," Gov. Roy Cooper said.
5 p.m. Friday update:
Florence's maximum sustained winds have decreased to 70 mph and it is barely moving west at 3 mph. At this speed expect extreme flooding to occur in South and North Carolina, amounts could reach over 20 inches and some isolated amounts closer to 40 inches of rain, where rain bands become more consistent.
Life-threatening storm surge will continue to affect the Carolinas coast as teh system is barely moving.
Tropical storm-force winds still extend far from the storms center, up to 175 mph. A sustained winds of 55 mph and a gust of 72 mph was recorded at the National Ocean Service station at Johnny Mercer Pier in Wrightsville Beach.
Florence made landfall in Wrightsville Beach, N.C. Friday, at around 7:15 a.m., causing a life-threatening storm surge,
[ "Florence, unfortunately, is living up to what was expected. The slow movement is just horrific. It continues to pound the same areas with relentless rain, putting towns under water," Severe Weather Center 9 meteorologist Brian Shields said. ]
The eye of Florence is wobbling slowly southwest just off the coast of southeastern North Carolina, near the border with South Carolina, forecasters said.
The hurricane's top sustained winds have dropped to 85 mph, while it moves slowly toward South Carolina at 6 mph.
WATCH: Live coverage from sister station WSOC in Charlotte, NC
At 9 a.m., the center of the hurricane was about 55 miles east of Myrtle Beach.
More than 415,000 homes and businesses were without power, mostly in North Carolina, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the nation's electrical grid.
The barrier island of Emerald Isle is under water, with ocean waves rolling in over a six-foot storm surge and crashing into homes.
Watch: Winds, rain pick up as Hurricane Florence moves in to NC
Forecasters said: "It cannot be emphasized enough that the most serious hazard associated with slow-moving Florence is extremely heavy rainfall, which will cause disastrous flooding that will be spreading inland."
The life-threatening storm surge will also coincide with several high tide cycles.
Thousands are already without power and the power outages will continue.
Florence will slowly continue to decrease its maximum sustained winds, but the significant weakening in winds will come after Saturday, once the storm moves finally moves inland.
As it moves inland, flooding will be a major concern for western South and North Carolina, including the Appalachians, where they can expect heavy rain until next Wednesday.
Scroll down for indirect impacts to the Southeast U.S.
Could we still have some more impacts in Central Florida?
The highest waves came Thursday, as the storm moves inland the winds will shift across Central Florida, and the seas will continue to subside. Friday and Saturday the winds will be out of the west-southwest, pulling warm temperatures over the area, but there will also be much more drier air limiting showers and thunderstorms to only 20 percent of the Central Florida. Please stay hydrated, temperatures could reach the mid-90s across some parts of Central Florida, feeling as if they were in the triple digits.
Threats for the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic states
Storm surge: A life-threatening storm surge threat will continue. A combination of storm surge and tide will allow water to rush inland and flood normally dry areas. Coastal North Carolina could still have 9 to 13 feet and parts of South Carolina a 6- to 9-foot storm surge is possible.
Flooding: Life-threatening freshwater flooding is likely from a prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event, which may extend inland over the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic for hundreds of miles as Florence is expected to slow down as it approaches the coast and moves inland. Coastal North Carolina can receive 20 to 30 inches of rain.
South Carolina, western and northern North Carolina could see 5 to 10 inches of rain with some isolated areas seeing 20 inches.
Along the Appalachians and mid-Atlantic states, 3 to 6 inches of rain are possible with some isolated spots receiving around 12 inches.
Tornadoes: A tornado watch has been in effect to eastern North Carolina since Thursday afternoon since the right quadrant has been focused over this area. Some tornadoes could develop as the system moves in. The highest threat for tornadoes will continue to exist to the right of the system’s center in relation to direction.
Wind: Destructive winds will continue to affect a large area as the wind field will continue to be large. Until the storm makes landfall Florence could still be holding hurricane-force winds. Wind speeds of at least 39 mph, damaging wind, could also spread well inland into portions of the Carolinas.
We will continue to monitor Florence closely and bring you updates promptly on Channel 9, WFTV.com and on our WFTV apps. We have sent a crew to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to bring you the latest on Florence.
Cox Media Group