A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on a house, according to a tweet from Wilmington police.
But the NHC warned that Florence still poses a deadly threat to a wide stretch of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, from southern Georgia into southern Virginia, and remained capable of unleashing rain-fuelled catastrophic flooding of rivers and low-lying areas. The center of the storm will likely land between Brownsville and Rockport. Rescue workers in North Carolina meanwhile were scrambling to save people stranded in their homes.
Hurricane Florence barrelled into the Carolina coast and moved inland on Friday, knocking down trees, overflowing rivers, dumping sheets of rain and leading to the death of five people before it was downgraded to a tropical storm still capable of wreaking havoc.
Hurricane Florence was on course Wednesday to deliver a powerful blow to the east coast of the United States, with forecasters warning of life-threatening rainfall and flooding even as it weakened to a Category 2 storm.
On the mainland in New Bern, the authorities said more than 100 people had to be saved from floods, and that the downtown area was under water.
The destructive storm surge will occur as the hurricane's eye comes ashore from Thursday night into Friday, the Weather Channel said, and coastal flooding may persist through multiple high tide cycles into this weekend east of the center of Florence.
The flooding soon spread into SC, swamping places like North Myrtle Beach, in a resort area known for its white sands and multitude of golf courses.
Before sunrise, high winds and storm surge from Hurricane Florence hits Swansboro N.C., on September 14, 2018. All seven of North Carolina's ferry routes were shut down.
But the NHC also said tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 195 miles (315 km) from its center, leaving a swathe of the USA eastern seaboard vulnerable, much of it low-lying and stretching from Georgia north through the Carolinas into Virginia.
Eudy's family has lived in New Bern since the 1850s, he said.
Mandatory evacuation orders have been placed for millions of people along the coast with more to possibly come as the path of the storm becomes more apparent.
On the forecast track, the center of Florence will move further inland across extreme southeastern North Carolina and extreme eastern SC today and Saturday. "You may need to move up to the second storey, or to your attic, but we are coming to get you".
Wind speeds are kicking up far from the coast in central SC as Hurricane Florence slowly makes its way along the coast.
"When the conditions in the area intensified suddenly, we made the call to have our news staff evacuate the area and team up with our sister station WPDE in Myrtle Beach to continue covering the storm and providing our viewers with vital, potentially life-saving, information", General Manager Matt Bowman said in a statement posted to the station's website. But spokeswoman Diane Villa says some animals, including bison and elk, will stay in fenced-in yards instead of barns because they don't like being in fully enclosed spaces.