"And we're not done yet", Graham said, adding that some hard-hit areas could get an additional 15 to 20 inches because the storm was moving so slowly. The system is likely to weaken and strike as a Category 1 Hurricane as the winds have also weakened in strength a little as has been reported by the National Hurricane Center.
More ominously, forecasters said the onslaught would last for hours and hours because Florence was barely creeping along at 6 mph (9 kph) and still drawing energy from the ocean.
He said hurricane-force winds extended outward 80 miles from the center of the storm and tropical storm-force winds extended almost 200 miles out.
The Miami-based center says Florence is bringing "catastrophic" fresh water flooding over a wide area of the Carolinas.
At least 12,000 people have taken refuge in 126 emergency shelters, Cooper said, with more facilities being opened.
Officials found a basketball-sized hole in the hotel wall and other life-threatening damage, with some cinder blocks crumbling and parts of the roof collapsing. She retreated and was eventually rescued by a boat crew; 140 more awaited assistance.
In the besieged North Carolina town of New Bern, rescuers plucked more than 100 people from rising waters, but about 150 more had to wait when conditions worsened and a storm surge reached 10 feet.
Hundreds of people had to be rescued in New Bern, North Carolina, as they called for help overnight, city officials said.
Storm clouds are seen over the 2nd ave pier as the force of Hurricane Florence is beginning to be felt on September 14, 2018 in Myrtle Beach, United States.
- Authorities in the coastal city of New Bern were working with federal responders to rescue at least 150 residents who reported themselves stranded in Hurricane Florence's storm surge.
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As of 4 a.m., Florence was 30 miles (45 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina.
Heavy rain, gusting winds and rising floodwaters from Hurricane Florence deluged the Carolinas on Thursday as the massive, slow-moving storm crept toward the coastline, threatening millions of people in its path with record rainfall and punishing surf.
As of noon, Emerald Isle had over 23 inches of rain, and Wilmington and Goldsboro had about a foot.
As of 3 a.m., Florence hadn't moved and was still centered about 35 miles (55 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Its forward movement was 6 miles per hour.
Florence, now a tropical storm, swirled at a near-standstill over the Carolinas on Saturday, dumping non-stop rain over areas already flooded by seawater and swelling rivers and creeks across both states.
Hurricane Florence, weakened but still unsafe, crashed into the Carolinas on Friday as a giant, slow-moving storm that stranded residents with floodwaters and swamped part of the town of New Bern at the beginning of what could be a dayslong deluge.
But that, combined with the storm's slowing forward movement and heavy rains, had Governor Roy Cooper warning of an impending disaster.
Hurricane Florence already has inundated coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power, and more is to come. The few cars out on a main street in Wilmington had to swerve to avoid fallen trees, metal debris and power lines.
The storm's intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to 90 miles per hour (135 kph) by nightfall. Its surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet (3.4 metres) of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet (0.9 metres) of rain, touching off severe flooding.