The massive hurricane is moving slowly, unleashing extra havoc as it hovers over the region, including deadly storm surge and flooding rains.
Screaming winds bent trees and led to near-horizontal rain as Florence's leading edge whipped the Carolina coast to begin an onslaught that could last for days, leaving a wide area underwater from both heavy downpours and rising seas.
Rain water flooded streets are pictured as Hurricane Florence moves into the Carolinas in Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018. At least four people were killed. The National Weather Service said about 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches.
Forecasters said Florence's surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet of sea water.
Kevin Knox and his family were rescued by boat from their flooded brick home with the help of Army Sgt. Johan Mackie, whose team used a phone app to locate people in distress.
Florence flattened trees, crumbled roads and knocked out power to more than 700,000 homes and businesses, and the assault wasn't near an end.
The fourth person who died was a man in Lenoir County who was hooking up a generator, Gov. Roy Cooper's office said.
Almost 300,000 customers in North Carolina were reported to be without power as the outer band of the storm approached. Expert scientists, however, had said they were anxious about Brunswick because of scant public information about its readiness.
Shaken after seeing waves crashing in the Neuse River just outside his house in the town of New Bern, hurricane veteran Tom Ballance wished he had evacuated.
Florence expected to become 'major hurricane' by Monday
At this point, its exact landfall location is very hard to determine as Florence will eventually make a NW and then north turn. EDT, Florence was centered about 625 miles (1,005 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda, moving west at 9 mph (15 kph).
Cheryl Browning, who lives with her husband and son in North Carolina, said they chose to stay put despite the warnings as they also have three dogs and three parrots.
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. Some areas of North Carolina saw nearly a foot of rain just a few hours, and footage showed sea levels begin to surge in land.
Hurricane Florence is thrashing the Carolina coast with devastating flooding and hurricane-force winds. It started pushing its way westward across SC later in the day, in a watery siege that could go on all weekend.
For people living inland in the Carolinas, the moment of maximum peril from flash flooding could arrive days later, because it takes time for rainwater to drain into rivers and for those streams to crest.
"The combination of a risky storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline", the hurricane center advisory said. SC recorded its first death from the storm when officials said a 61-year-old woman was killed when her vehicle hit a tree that had fallen across a highway.
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. Traffic lights out of order because of power failures swayed in the gusty wind.
The Wilmington airport had a wind gust clocked at 105 miles per hour (169 kph), the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958.
Rescuers in North Carolina meanwhile were scrambling to save people stranded in their homes. The city of New Bern tweeted to its residents early Friday morning, "We have 2 out-of-state FEMA teams here for swift water rescue".
"We're on our way, we will get you rescued", Outlaw said while cautioning that first responders have to be careful of their own safety.