Hurricane Florence blew ashore in the US state of North Carolina with howling 90 miles per hour (144 km/h) winds and terrifying storm surge early Friday, felling trees, splintering buildings, trapping hundreds of people and swamping entire communities along the coast. To rescue as many animals as possible.
Florence will crawl across SC overnight.
Florence's intensity has diminished since it roared ashore along the US mid-Atlantic coast on Friday as a hurricane.
North Carolina officials say large-scale search-and-rescue operations are underway in coastal areas as floodwaters from Florence spread across the state and road conditions worsen.
As of 5:00 pm (2100 GMT) Florence was producing tropical storm-strength winds of 70 miles (110 kilometers) an hour, while it lashed the Carolinas with heavy rains and threatened deadly flash flooding. One report was of a 10-foot surge in New Bern, North Carolina, the National Weather Service said.
As of noon, Emerald Isle had more than 23 inches (58 centimeters) of rain, and Wilmington and Goldsboro had about a foot (30 centimeters).
If Florence doesn't wipe out oceanfront homes perched on stilts along the Carolinas coast, rising sea levels will. Florence lashed low-lying barrier islands that experience some of the fastest rates of sea level rise observed anywhere in the world, almost an inch a year.
Authorities were most concerned about inland flooding and storm-surge flooding from Florence.
Heavy rain from Florence will soak the east coast early next week.
In North and SC was energized more than 620 thousand households. River flooding may be worse than Hurricane Floyd in 1999. But once New Bern TV news station WCTI evacuated its newsroom Thursday night because of flooding and people began to lose power, the seriousness of the situation began dawning on folks, she said.
Officials had warned before the storm that the rains could risk tainting waterways with murky coal ash and toxic hog waste.
Florence could become a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared a year ago for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the death toll was put at almost 3,000.
The greatest storm surge inundation is expected between Cape Fear and Cape Hatteras, including the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers and western Pamlico Sound, the National Hurricane Center said. 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.
About 1,600 animals at the North Carolina Zoo are hunkered down, with zoo workers moving swiftly to get elephants, giraffes, chimpanzees and hundreds of other species indoors to safety. "We are stuck in the attic".
Boat teams rescued residents Sadie Marie Holt, 67, who first tried to row out of her neighborhood during Florence's assault.
"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the city tweeted around 2 a.m. Friday. "And we had no belief it would be as significant an event as it was", he said. She was eventually rescued by a boat crew; 140 more awaited assistance.
"Honestly, I grew up in Wilmington. I love hurricanes. But this one has been an experience for me", she said.