The hurricane was also deadly, killing five people.
As at Saturday, about 676,000 homes and businesses were without power in North Carolina, along with 119,000 in SC.
At 2 a.m. Friday, the city tweeted an ominous message, saying at least 150 people were awaiting rescue.
Kathleen O'Neal, who lives on Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks, was also feeling good about her decision to sit tight, having weathered more than 30 hurricanes in the past. 'Catastrophic flooding rainfall & prolonged river flooding is expected as Florence meanders slowly through the Carolinas. Gov. Cooper said power was out to 700,000, with new blackouts being reported regularly.
Hurricane Irma destroyed Kathy Griffin's house in Florida past year, and it could be days before she finds out whether Florence smashed her fifth-story condominium in Wrightsville Beach, where authorities said utilities could be out for days or weeks.
After blowing ashore as a hurricane with 90 miles per hour (145 kph) winds, Florence virtually parked itself much of the weekend atop the Carolinas as it pulled warm water from the ocean and hurled it onshore.
The county had been conducting water rescues since Thursday, Parker said. The Neuse River rose rapidly, overcoming the streets of New Bern.
"I said, no I got to go". His state has already endured record rainfall, with much more forecast to come. "It's just bad - winds are still really high". Rivers will continue to rise days after the rain has stopped, he said.
Flood and flash flood warnings remain in effect for much of North Carolina. If boaters are looking to help, pls reach out to other communities who might still have needs.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned against such behavior as roads became increasingly unsafe. With the National Weather Service predicting the slow-moving system could drop up to eight months' worth of rain in two or three days, the risk of flooding is still real.
Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats that could be used to pluck people from the floodwaters. Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of environmental havoc from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms. The head of Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, said officials were still focused on finding and rescuing people.
The city of about 29,000, which was founded in the early 1700s and was briefly the state capital, is near the North Carolina coast and is bordered on the east and south, respectively, by two rivers.
Ryan Maue, a meteorologist for weathermodels.com, calculated that the storm will dump the equivalent of 18 trillion gallons of rain, enough to cover Texas in four inches of water and fill the Chesapeake Bay. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with almost 4 inches (10 centimetres) of water, he calculated.
The storm's death toll climbed to 13 when authorities said two people died from inhaling carbon monoxide from a generator in their SC home. Pieces of torn-apart buildings flew through the air.
In Wilmington, near where the eye of the hurricane touched down, trees and power lines were down and many windows had been broken.
The Wilmington airport had a wind gust clocked at 105 miles per hour (169 kph), the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958, the weather service said. Airlines canceled more than 2,400 flights through Sunday.
"And from that point, we started hearing where people were saying on phone calls, 'I love you, ' to their family members because they were not sure they were going to get out of it alive", she said Friday.
Rivers are swelling toward record levels, forecaster warn, and thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate for fear that the next few days could bring some of the most destructive flooding in North Carolina history.
"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", New Bern city officials said on Twitter. "That's why we've been preaching to people that you have to get away from the water". "As expeditiously as we can with the weather conditions, the wind conditions, we've gotten water-rescue teams together to go out and rescue residents".
"I'm not going to put our personnel in harm's way, especially for people that we've already told to evacuate", Wrightsville Beach police chief Dan House said.