Kevin Knox and his family were rescued from their flooded brick home with the help of Army Sgt. Johan Mackie, part of a team that was using a phone app to locate people in distress.
Florence flattened trees, damaged buildings and crumpled roads.
Florence blew ashore early Friday in North Carolina with 90 miles per hour winds, buckling buildings, deluging entire communities and knocking out power to more than 900,000 homes and businesses as it crawled inland and weakened into a still-lethal tropical storm.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said the storm was posing an even greater risk of flooding than when it first made landfall.
"The fact that there haven't been more deaths and damage is wonderful and a blessing", said Rebekah Roth, walking around Wilmington's Winoca Terrace neighborhood.
Storm surges - the bulge of ocean water pushed ashore by the hurricane - were as high as 10 feet (3 meters).
In New Bern, at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers in North Carolina, Florence overwhelmed the town of 30,000. But Outlaw said on Friday morning it's "not a bad idea to get in your auto and get west of I-95" if residents feel they can safely do so.
Florence made landfall at 7:15 a.m. on Friday as a hurricane with sustained winds of 90 miles per hour - making it a Category 1 storm. It came ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.
Tropical Storm Florence is continuing to drop torrential rain across the state as the system moves into SC.
But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind.
In a separate briefing, Steve Goldstein of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said some areas have already received two feet of rain and could expect up to 20 inches more as the system moved "slowly, almost stationary" over eastern North Carolina.
"The cost to SC, if that happens, if the storm continues the way it is going, could be in the billions", Dahler said.
Hurricane-Force Winds, Life-Threatening Storm Surge From Florence Impacting The Carolinas
Packing 105 miles per hour wind , Florence is still expected to make landfall early Friday near Wilmington, N.C. It is expected to slowly move west through central SC by Sunday morning.
The National Hurricane Center said as much as 40in (102cm) was expected on the southeastern coast of North Carolina and part of northeastern SC.
As of Saturday afternoon, about 752,000 people remained without power in North Carolina, along with 119,000 in SC.
Four looters have already been arrested in Brunswick County, North Carolina as Tropical Storm Florence wreaks havoc on the coast. Forecasters say it could become a depression by Saturday night.
The water "is as high as it's ever been and waves are breaking on my point, which is normally grass", said Copeland, a freelance photographer for The Associated Press.
The storm is expected to bring historic and "catastrophic" rain and flooding, the National Hurricane Center said in an 8 a.m. briefing.
North Carolina alone is forecast to get 9.6 trillion gallons (36 trillion litres), enough to cover the Tar Heel state to a depth of about 10 inches (25 centimetres).
Trees and limbs and other debris have blocked several roads throughout the region, including on major thoroughfares in Wilmington like Oleander Drive, South 17th Street and Independence Boulevard.
Airlines canceled more than 2,100 flights through Sunday.
Five people are known to have died as the massive weather system knocked down trees, flooded rivers, and dumped sheets of rain in the Carolinas.
"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the city tweeted during the height of the storm. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU".
Courageous volunteers are seen defying the danger and continuing to rescue residents and their pets. "We're going to have to have patience, we're going to have to be careful and we're going to have to deal with a lot of water".