At least four people, including a mother and her baby, were confirmed dead on Friday night as Hurricane Florence brought a "biblical" deluge to the USA east coast.
In the first report of storm-related fatalities, a mother and infant died after a tree fell on a house in Wilmington, North Carolina, according to local police. The father was injured in the accident.
In Pender County, North Carolina, a woman suffered a fatal heart attack; paramedics trying to reach her were blocked by debris.
As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that FEMA and first responders are "supplied and ready", and he disputed the official conclusion that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad.
Blowing ashore with howling 90 miles per hour (155 kph) winds, Florence splintered buildings, trapped hundreds of people and swamped entire communities along the Carolina coast Friday in what could be just the opening act in a watery, two-part, slow-motion disaster.
So far, it's estimate more than 1.7 million Americans have heeded the warnings about Hurricane Florence.
Florence has it all: Hot ocean temperatures that fuel hurricanes.
"Because of the rising waters, we're going to take you to the coverage of our sister station in Myrtle Beach", Cox said, before walking off the set, leaving an empty frame as the weather graphic continued to pulse silently.
A hurricane warning was in effect from the South Santee River in SC to Duck, N.C., nearly 400 miles.
More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate the coastlines of the Carolinas and Virginia. Numerous evacuees had pets with them.
"Hurricanes normally come in and they go inland, which sucks the power out of them as they go over the land", he said.
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Hurricane Florence lashes USA with rain and wind
Life-threatening storms are expected across large portions of the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic states. A tropical storm warning is in effect for north of Duck, NC, to the North Carolina/Virginia border.
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Southeastern coastal North Carolina into far northeastern South Carolina.an additional 20 to 25 inches, with isolated storm totals of 30 to 40 inches.
Twenty inches were reported by early Friday afternoon in the town of Oriental. The downtown area was underwater. Calls for help multiplied as the wind picked up and the tide rolled in.
SC ordered the mandatory evacuation of one million coastal residents while North Carolina ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks, barrier islands that are a popular tourist destination. The town's public information officer, Colleen Roberts, told CNN 150 more people were awaiting rescue.
Speaking at the White House, Trump said "protection of life is the absolute highest priority".
Governor Cooper said the state would arrange a visit by Trump "at an appropriate time". He said all roads leading to his neighborhood were blocked by fallen trees. "It's insane", he said by telephone.
"I've been through hurricanes before but never with kids", she said.
In New Bern, North Carolina, where the Neuse and Trent rivers intersect, around 200 people were rescued after being stranded in their homes overnight, according to Mayor Dana Outlaw.
Duke Energy, a power company in the Carolinas, estimated that one million to three million customers could lose electricity because of the storm and that it could take weeks to restore.
The storm was expected to move across parts of southeastern North Carolina and eastern SC on Friday and Saturday, then head north over the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC said. After a Friday landfall near Cape Fear, N.C., the storm is expected to drift slowly west, battering the Carolinas through the weekend.
Storm surge, the massive mound of water that builds up and comes ashore during a hurricane, is often the deadliest and most destructive threat from the storms.
Florence was one of two major storms on Friday.