At 1 p.m. Friday, the National Hurricane Center issued an advisory stating that Florence was weakening as it moved farther inland over northeastern North Carolina, but that "torrential rains will continue".
"Into next week our rivers are going to continue to rise and there will be more significant flooding", Cooper said.
An earlier report that two deaths in Carteret County that were related to the storm have since been corrected.
In Duplin County, three people were killed during a flash-flood incident. No passengers were in the vehicle at the time of the crash, and Captain Kelley Hughes of the South Carolina Highway Patrol said that the woman was wearing her seatbelt.
"Our hearts go out to the families of those who died in this storm", Cooper said in a statement. During Hurricane Matthew in 2016 - North Carolina's last major hurricane - the state counted 4,071 people in 109 shelters.
"Great job FEMA, First Responders and Law Enforcement - not easy, very risky, tremendous talent". President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency on the federal level Tuesday for the Carolinas and Virginia. NASA is using its various high-flying tools to monitor the storm, taking precipitations measurements and NOAA's National Hurricane Center is using that data to forecast the storm's progress. Our main worry is water and flooding.
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"We're deeply concerned for whole communities which could be wiped away".
More than 360 people had been rescued by midafternoon Friday, hours after then-Hurricane Florence swept through, but another 140 were still waiting for help, city spokeswoman Colleen Roberts told The Associated Press.
Forecasters say it is especially unsafe after dark because people trying to escape may not realize how deep flood water is on roads. Coast Guard members said choppers had made about 50 rescues in and around New Bern and Jacksonville as of noon.
"The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast in areas of onshore winds, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves", the National Hurricane Center said.
At least five people, including a mother and her child, have been killed as Florence brings unending rain and storm surges to the region.
Hurricane Florence, weakened but still unsafe, crashed into the Carolinas on Friday as a giant, slow-moving storm that stranded residents with floodwaters and swamped part of the town of New Bern at the beginning of what could be a days-long deluge.
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Also of concern is the sprawling Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia and Marine Corps bases at Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point in North Carolina and at Parris Island in SC.
A massive tree had fallen directly into the bedroom of one family's house.
The Wilmington airport had a wind gust clocked at 105 miles per hour (169 kph), the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958.
Mason Tarr said he spent the night at a friend's house but didn't sleep well. We have steps on the sides of the house so it's a few feet off the ground anyway.
"The wind was so hard, the waters were so hard, that trying to get out we got thrown into trailers".
After reaching a terrifying Category 4 peak of 140 mph (225 kph) earlier in the week, Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m.at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles (kilometers) east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line.
Hurricane Florence driving 'life-threatening' conditions toward East Coast
Loewenthal said the area should prepare to see impacts, including rough surf and risky rip currents, as early as Sunday. As of 11 a.m., Florence had a maximum wind speed of 115 miles per hour , bringing it to major hurricane status.