More than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing motel at the height of the storm, and many more who defied evacuation orders held out hope of being rescued.
Florence flattened trees, crumbled roads and knocked out power to three-quarters of a million homes and businesses, and the assault wasn't anywhere close to being over. More are on the way to help us.
High winds and storm surge from Hurricane Florence hits Swansboro in North Carolina on September 14, 2018. "We might leave", she said.
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.
A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington, North Carolina. The governor's office said a third person was killed while plugging in a generator.
Shaken after seeing waves crashing on the Neuse River just outside his house in New Bern, restaurant owner and hurricane veteran Tom Ballance wished he had evacuated.
New Bern, home to approximately 30,000 people, sits about 37 miles northeast of Jacksonville, North Carolina, on the banks of the Neuse River.
Still, he said: "I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth". It blew ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.
Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7.15 am (9.15pm AEST) at Wrightsville Beach, a few kilometres east of Wilmington, as the centre of its eye moved onshore, the National Hurricane Centre said.
But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind.
A buoy off the North Carolina coast recorded waves almost 30 feet high as Florence churned toward shore.
People across Russian Federation rally against raising pension age
The protests coincide with elections for 26 heads of Russia's 85 regions, including in Moscow, which are being held on Sunday. Although the numbers were not big, the authorities broke up rallies in Moscow and St Petersburg using the OMON riot police.
Hurricane Irma destroyed Kathy Griffin's house in Florida previous year, and it could be days before she finds out whether Florence smashed her fifth-story condominium in Wrightsville Beach, where authorities said utilities could be out for days or weeks. Another one of the bears ended up in the middle of the street in the background.
Fox Business Network correspondent Jeff Flock reported live from the eye of Hurricane Florence in Carolina Beach, North Carolina.
The Charlotte area is expected to see heavy rain and 30-40 miles per hour winds in the coming days, which could cause power outages and flooding in certain areas.
About 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians have been deployed, with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.
A tree uprooted by strong winds lies along a street in Wilmington, N.C., after Hurricane Florence made landfall Friday.
Authorities warned, too, of risks of mudslides and environmental disasters from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.
"Damaging hurricane-force winds are occurring along portions of the North Carolina coast and are expected to spread to portions of the SC coast" later on Friday.
Florence crashed ashore Friday morning in North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane, and it has wiped out power to about 964,000 customers in that state and SC.
Some areas could receive as much as 40 inches (one meter) of rain, forecasters said. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay, he calculated.
Flood waters surround a house as Hurricane Florence hits Swansboro N.C., on Friday.
"The water kept rising and kept rising", he said. Its winds were down to 45 miles per hour (75 kph). Nationwide, airlines canceled more than 2,400 flights through Sunday.