Rain ranging from one to three and a half feet has already fallen, and it's not over.
Cooper said many people in his state who may think the storm has missed them have not yet seen its actual threat to their regions, advising residents inland that "rivers will rise days after the rain has stopped", reaching their highest level days from now.
Tropical Storm Florence - continuing to weaken - moved slowly at 3 miles per hour west through the Midlands on Saturday, showering Lexington and Richland counties with 2-4 inches of rain and wind gusts at around 50 miles per hour, the National Weather Service of Columbia reported.
In New Bern, along the coast, aerial photos show homes completely surrounded by water, with rescuers using inflatable boats to reach people. Carteret County officials said Saturday that two people had died there, but the cause of those deaths couldn't be determined.
The storm was about 35 miles east of Wilmington, N.C., and about 50 miles southwest of Morehead City, N.C., the National Hurricane Center's 2 a.m. EDT Friday advisory said.
A sailboat is shoved up against a house and a collapsed garage September 15, 2018, after heavy wind and rain from Florence, now a tropical storm, blew through New Bern, North Carolina.
Forecasters say the combination of a life-threatening storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.
The city warns that people "may need to move up to the second story" but tells them to stay put as "we are coming to get you".
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Hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles.
Officials from Cumberland County, Fayetteville and the town of Wade issued the order early Saturday afternoon, saying residents there face "imminent danger" from flood waters expected to arrive in the area soon.
"Don't go back until this storm passes and you get the official all clear", he said.
Power outages are widespread, affecting over 740,000 homes and businesses in North Carolina and 163,000 in SC.
"I'm anxious about what I might find when I go home, though", she said.
Since being shared online just 12 hours ago, the video has collected over 10 million views and more than 3 lakh "likes" on Twitter alone.
The White House said President Donald Trump would visit hurricane-hit areas next week "once it is determined his travel will not disrupt any rescue or recovery efforts".
Rainfall has been heavy and consistent in the areas of the storm, with Florence expected to cascade up to 40 inches of rain across southern and central portions of North Carolina into far northeastern SC.