Winds have dropped to about 144km/h but North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said the worst of the storm was yet to come.
"The sun rose this morning on an extremely unsafe situation and it's going to get worse", he said at a news conference in Raleigh. "I built this house myself, so I'm not anxious at all, I know it's solid", he said.
Cooper said Florence would "continue its violent grind across the state for days".
Forecasters said conditions will only get more lethal as the storm smashes ashore early Friday near the North Carolina-South Carolina line and crawls slowly inland. Florence's maximum sustained winds were clocked on Thursday at 105 miles per hour (165 kph). Kottyan said they will decide whether to keep some employees on site as Florence's path becomes more clear.
Authorities in New Bern said more than 100 people had to be saved from floods and that the downtown area was underwater. A city spokeswoman Colleen Roberts told WRAL-TV that 200 people have already been plucked to safety. "We were able to evacuate quite a few; some did not go", he said. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU".
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Navarro said Thursday that that was because the president's tweets were politically damaging for those associated with him. Trump also bragged about his handling of Hurricane Maria past year and said the death toll has been inflated.
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Water also rushed into the county's emergency operations center.
The hurricane is now centered about 220 miles (354km) east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and 170 miles to the south-east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Emergency crews also rescued an Onslow family from their home where a tree fell through the roof, Jordan said.
"It's insane", he said in a phone interview. "If I can't get back in a week, after a while they might turn on each other or trash the place".
Duke Energy Co. said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks.
At the time, the storm carried winds of about 90 miles per hour (145 km/h), making it a Category 1 storm, but that ranking belies the hurricane's massive clouds and the downpour it is visiting on the coastline, with some areas already drenched in 30 inches (76 centimeters) of rain. "We have Hurricane Florence just sort of hovering over the area right now and we expect expect it to continue doing that for some time". Significant weakening is expected over the weekend.
And they say people who are truly in an emergency should call 911, not just Tweet about it.
Maysie Baumgardner, 7, and her family sheltered at the Hotel Ballast in downtown Wilmington as the hurricane filled the streets with floodwaters. There had been no reports of fatalities or injuries so far, she said. They're riding out the storm at their home with four children - ages 11 to 17 - Marson's friend, four dogs, two chinchillas, a cat and a lizard.