Florence crashed ashore Friday morning in North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane, and it has wiped out power to about 796,000 customers in that state and SC, reports CNN. "Not only are you going to see more impact across North Carolina this week ... but we're also anticipating you are about to see a lot of damage going through West Virginia, all the way up to OH as the system exits out", said Brock Long of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Authorities ordered the immediate evacuation of up to 7,500 people living within 1.6 kilometres of a stretch of the Cape Fear River and the Little River, about 160 kilometres from the North Carolina coast.
Most of the fatalities occurred in North Carolina, where officials confirmed eight victims.
Millions of Americans are facing "historic and unprecedented flooding" from record levels of rainfall as Florence continues to pummel the Carolinas, with the worst yet to come.
On a flooded road near New Bern, Bryan Moore and his nephew Logan made a decision to go swimming in the floodwaters after having spent days at home without electricity or running water.
Officials are planning to airlift food and water to Wilmington after the city of almost 120,000 people became cut off from the rest of North Carolina by rising flood water from Florence.
The additional rainfall will continue to cause flash flooding across large areas of all three states, with 5 to 10 more inches of rain expected in North Carolina, 4 to 6 more inches expected in SC and 2 to 4 inches in west-central Virginia.
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A member of the US Coast Guard walks down Mill Creek Road checking houses after tropical storm Florence hit Newport N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018.
As it made landfall on the United States southeast coast on Friday, Florence buckled buildings, flooded entire communities and left more than 900,000 homes and businesses without power. Earlier, authorities said two people died from inhaling carbon monoxide from a generator in their home.
"If not we'd be stuck upstairs for the next ... how long?"
President Donald Trump said federal emergency workers, first responders and law enforcement officials were "working really hard". "They have not even begun (to crest)". But officials said the state's many lagoons of toxic hog waste had so far withstood the storm. So it's "time to go out and have a drink".
The spreading disaster claimed additional lives Sunday, with at least 17 people confirmed dead, and the nation's top emergency official said other states were in the path this week.
"Wind won't be a factor, and we're not expecting any flooding", he said. As rivers keep rising and rains keep falling, the flooding will spread.
National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said radar and rain gauges indicated some areas got as much as 762mm of rain, which he called "absolutely staggering".
In New Bern, along the coast, aerial photos show homes completely surrounded by water, with rescuers using inflatable boats to reach people.