The centre of Tropical Storm Florence has moved into SC, and both it and North Carolina continue to face powerful winds and catastrophic flooding.
"We can not overstate the threat of catastrophic flooding this storm will bring", the National Weather Service said.
"It's probably going to take another 24 hours" for Florence to pass through the Wilmington region, Reid Hawkins, science officer with the National Weather Service office in Wilmington, said at 5 a.m. Friday.
Rescuers are assisted by the Cajun Navy volunteer rescue group, Gene Hodges, assistant county manager with Craven County government, told NPR's Brakkton Booker.
Florence arrived at the Carolina coast as a Category 1 storm, with winds far slower than the fearsome 150 miles per hour of just a few days ago.
Tom Balance, owner of a seafood restaurant in New Bern, had decided against evacuating his home and was soon alarmed to see waves coming off the Neuse and the water getting higher and higher.
In Jacksonville, North Carolina, next to Camp Lejeune, firefighters and police fought wind and rain as they went door-to-door to pull people out of the Triangle Motor Inn after the structure began to crumble and the roof started to collapse.
A tornado watch was also in effect for parts of North Carolina.
Its storm surge and the prospect of 1 to 3 feet of rain were considered an even bigger threat than its winds, which dropped way down from a terrifying 140 miles per hour - Category 4 - earlier in the week. States of emergency have already been declared in both North and SC.
The 5 a.m. Hurricane Florence track. And a man was knocked to the ground while outside and died, authorities said.
"I can not overstate it: Floodwaters are rising, and if you aren't watching for them you are risking your life", Gov. Roy Cooper said. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said the heavy rain could trigger landslides in the west of his state.
Officials in North Carolina's Harnett County, about 90 miles inland, urged residents of about 1,100 homes to evacuate because the Lower Little River was rising toward record levels. They later clarified those deaths were not related to Florence. "I'm not sure if it's a shift in the wind or low tide - but the water has miraculously disappeared".
She, her husband and three children escaped into the attic, but the winds howled, and the family fled to an upper floor bedroom. Forecasters said the onslaught could last for days, leaving a wide area under water from both heavy downpours and rising seas.
"It's the worst feeling in the world to hear people yelling for help, and you can't do anything", she said.
"They're already calling and asking when they can come back".
Boat teams including volunteers rescued some 360 residents, including Sadie Marie Holt, 67, who first tried to row out of her neighbourhood during Florence's assault.
A state of emergency has been declared in five coastal states - North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia. According to the National Hurricane Center, the storm will travel through upstate SC, be downgraded to a tropical depression, then turn north toward the Ohio Valley. That advisory came out on August 30, when Florence was developing near the Cabo Verde Islands across the Atlantic. Then it will swing to the northeast in the middle of next week on a path to the Atlantic Ocean near Nova Scotia, where it will be an extratropical low with gale-force winds.