"I can not overstate it: flood waters are rising".
In the Fayetteville area, John Rose owns a furniture business with stores less than a mile (1.6 kilometers) away from the Cape Fear River.
In a separate briefing, Steve Goldstein of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said some areas have already received two feet of rain and could expect up to 20 inches more as the system moved "slowly, almost stationary" over eastern North Carolina. "These are folks who chose to stay and ride out the storm for whatever reason, despite having a mandatory evacuation", city public information officer Colleen Roberts said.
Ex-hurricane Florence's top sustained winds have weakened to 80-kilometres-per-hour but it's projected to bring further catastrophic flash flooding.
Charlotte and Asheville in North Carolina, and Roanoke, Virginia, could be in for heavy rains as Florence plods inland. North Carolina corrections officials said more than 3,000 people were relocated from adult prisons and juvenile centers in the path of Florence, and more than 300 county prisoners were transferred to state facilities.
"If you are refusing to leave during this mandatory evacuation, you need to do things like notify your legal next of kin because the loss of life is very, very possible", Mayor Mitch Colvin said.
Duke said it had more than 20,000 personnel ready to start fixing outages as soon as conditions allowed, including more than 8,000 from Duke's Carolinas utilities, 1,700 from the Midwest, 1,200 from Florida and 9,400 from other utilities.
The center of the eye of the hurricane made landfall in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, and was moving slowly westward just south of Wilmington. Its forward movement was 6 miles per hour (9 kph).
Mike Pollack searches for a drain in the yard of his flooded waterfront home a day after Hurricane Florence hit the area, on September 15, 2018 in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Flash flood are expected to his the south-east coast as the storm moves across land.
In New Bern, a riverfront city near the North Carolina coast that saw storm surges up to 10 feet (3 meters), authorities were rescuing stranded residents and taking stock of damages.
Downgraded to a Tropical Storm, its core is now drifting westward over SC, threatening more flash floods and major river flooding.
Mr Cooper said: "North Carolina Emergency Management experts have been sharing flood mapping with local officials". Electricity remained out for much of the city, known for its historic mansions, with power lines lying across roads like wet strands of spaghetti.
A man sits on a park bench in a flooded park as the Cape Fear River rises above its usual height in Wilmington, N.C., on Friday. Sutton was retired in 2013 and the company has been excavating ash to remove to safer lined landfills.
Officials in New Bern, which dates to the early 18th century, said more than 100 people were rescued from floods and the downtown area was under water by Friday afternoon.
A mother and a baby were the storm's first victims, who were killed Friday when a tree collapsed on their home in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Officials in SC said a 61-year-old woman died when her vehicle struck a tree that had fallen across a highway near the town of Union. Rescue crews have used boats to reach hundreds of people trapped by the rising waters.
As of noon, Swansboro, North Carolina, had almost 31 inches of rain, Emerald Isle had over 23, and Wilmington and Goldsboro had about a foot. "Dangerous storm surge could also affect portions of the northeast coast of SC coast today".
The president may travel to the region next week, the White House says.
Across the two states there are some 30,000 people staying in emergency shelters. Forecasters said the storm will eventually break up over the southern Appalachians and make a sharp rightward swing to the northeast, its rainy remnants moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England by the middle of the week.