Roy Cooper called Florence an "uninvited brute" that could wipe out entire communities as it grinds its way across land.
Wilmington, on the banks of the Cape Fear River in North Carolina, was nearly completely cut off by land but emergency management teams managed to truck food and water overnight into the port city of 120,000 people. More and more inland counties are issuing mandatory evacuations to get people to safety quickly'.
Florence flattened trees, buckled buildings and crumpled roads.
The sun appeared in some areas for the first time in days, allowing some people to return home to assess damage and to reckon with the problems that develop as a result of massive floods caused by several feet of rain. "There's too much going on", Cooper said. Relatives say that whether they stay or go, they'll have damage to contend with.
Storm surges - the bulge of ocean water pushed ashore by the hurricane - were as high as 10 feet (3 meters).
Some good news: Waffle House is open! Atkinson's mother watched water rising in her street and declared, "Me personally, I don't have any fear".
Florence peaked at a terrifying Category 4 with top winds of 140 mph over warm ocean water before making landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m.at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line.
Death toll from Florence rises, officials urge caution as storm continues
Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, as a Category 1 hurricane Friday morning.
All but one road in and out of a North Carolina city of 120,000 people are underwater or blocked by debris.
The mast of a sunken boat sits at a dock at the Grand View Marina in New Bern, N.C., on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018.
The city's Cape Fear River is the biggest worry.
But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind.
Cooper said 2,600 people were rescued in North Carolina, along with 300 animals, and that the rescues were continuing.
Unfortunately, the forecast for Florence has not changed: It's still raining.
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North Carolina officials warned motorists not to drive on major highways because of hazardous conditions in the southeastern part of the state.
The flooding is coming from rivers, rather than the ocean, thanks to the feet of rain that have fallen since Thursday night.
The mayor of New Bern, a city badly affected by flooding, told NBC he had imposed a curfew.
The US's highest emergency official said other states were in the path of Florence.
Floodwater from Hurricane Florence threatens homes in Dillon, South Carolina, Sept. 17, 2018. Radar showed parts of the sprawling storm over six states, with North and SC in the bull's-eye. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with almost 4 inches (10 centimeters) of water, he calculated.
After ploughing into the North Carolina coast late last week, Florence lingered over the Carolinas all weekend like an unwanted house guest.
In New Bern, population 29,000, flooding on the Neuse River left 500 people in peril.
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Fayetteville city officials, meanwhile, got help from the Nebraska Task Force One search and rescue team to evacuate 140 residents of an assisted-living facility to a safer location at a church.
"We are not turning away that help", she said.
She eventually did, but others were not so lucky as supplies inevitably ran out.
High winds knocked over a tree that fell on a home, killing a 41-year-old woman and her 7-month-old son.
"Honestly, I grew up in Wilmington. We will have to sort out the crop damage", he continued, adding: "I think that it's fair to say in terms of economic impact rebuilding that we are talking in the billions of dollars".
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