Officials had warned before the storm that the rains could risk tainting waterways with murky coal ash and toxic hog waste.
Tropical Storm Florence dumped "epic" amounts of rain on North and SC as it trudged inland on Saturday, knocking out power and causing at least eight deaths as flood waters that have devastated many communities kept rising.
New Bern resident Peggy Perry was stranded with her family in the attic after her house flooded up to her waist in a matter of seconds. As of Saturday, about 676,000 homes and businesses were without power in North Carolina, along with 119,000 in SC. As the soil becomes saturated, gusty winds will topple trees and lead to widespread power outages. More than 60 people were rescued from a collapsing hotel in North Carolina overnight.
Outlaw said that number remains unchanged. Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it was unclear how many did.
"AccuWeather estimates that Hurricane Florence will cause $30-60 billion in economic impact and damage.To put this in context, we correctly predicted the full extent of Hurricane Harvey's economic damage to be $190 billion previous year".
The hurricane was also deadly, killing five people.
In Jacksonville, North Carolina, next to Camp Lejeune, firefighters and police fought wind and rain as they went door-to-door to pull dozens of people out of the Triangle Motor Inn after the structure began to crumble and the roof started to collapse. She retreated and was eventually rescued by a boat crew; 140 more awaited assistance.
"You can't get over till we have power and we have sewer up and running", said the retired teacher and real estate agent, who rode out the hurricane in an inland hotel.
As of 02:00, Florence was centered about 55km east of Wilmington, North Carolina.
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Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, Barbuda and Antigua was also expected to be discontinued by Thursday evening. Maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 40 miles per hour (65 km/h) with higher gusts.
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The weather service later measured a storm surge 10 feet deep in the city.
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.
Hours before the storm made landfall Friday, workers at New Bern's WCTI-TV had to abandon their studio because of flooding.
More than 12,000 people were in shelters in North Carolina and 400 in Virginia, where the forecast was less dire. "A USGS gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, recently recorded 6.3 feet of inundation".
At 11 a.m., Florence was centered about 20 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 55 miles (90 kilometers) east-northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
It is 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.
New Bern, the city where Pepsi was invented in a drugstore, was still experiencing winds in the 70 miles per hour range Friday afternoon. Utility companies said millions were expected to lose power and that restoring it could take weeks. During Thursday evening, it became a Category 1 storm with sustained winds of 90 miles per hour.
"If you are refusing to leave during this mandatory evacuation, you need to do things like notify your legal next of kin because the loss of life is very, very possible", Mayor Mitch Colvin said at a news conference.