As Florence pounded away, it unloaded heavy rain, flattened trees, chewed up roads and knocked out power to more than a half-million homes and businesses.
The residents there are not only dealing with the storm surge and flooding, but no power as well.
North Carolina's governor, Roy Cooper, said Florence was set to cover nearly all of the state in several feet of water.
Tropical Storm Helene is about 760 miles southwest of Lajes Air Base in the Azores.
The dead included a mother and baby killed when a tree fell on a house in Wilmington, North Carolina. The governor's office said a third person was killed while plugging in a generator.
Shaken after seeing waves crashing in the Neuse River just outside his house in the town of New Bern, hurricane veteran Tom Ballance wished he had evacuated.
"We lost power at home so we figured we should come to the bar", said Carla Mahaffee, a 33-year-old actor from Wilmington, as she drank a cider.
Hurricane Florence lumbered ashore in North Carolina with howling 90 miles per hour winds and terrifying storm surge early Friday, splintering buildings and trapping hundreds of people in high water as it settled in for what could be a long and extraordinarily destructive drenching.
Hurricane Florence made landfall between Wrightsville Beach and Myrtle Grove, North Carolina Friday morning at 7:15 a.m.
But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind.
A buoy off the North Carolina coast recorded waves almost 30 feet high as Florence churned toward shore.
Leaves, branches and other debris surround and cover a sports vehicle after Hurricane Florence hit Wilmington. Another one of the bears ended up in the middle of the street in the background.
Rains are expected to be quite a real hazard from the storm, as it will have a slow movement towards SC before it turns north.
Florence is moving toward land at 9 kilometers per hour (6 mph), giving it more time to churn, suck up water, batter the coast, and bring massive amounts of rain inland.
Authorities warned, too, of risks of mudslides and environmental disasters from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms. Hurricane Florence will slow down as it approaches the coast and moves inland.
The National Hurricane Center said Florence was forecast to keep moving farther inland across the Carolinas through the weekend before turning toward the central Appalachian Mountains early next week.
Earlier Saturday, officials in North Carolina's Carteret County said two other people were dead as a result of the storm.
The Miami-based center had said earlier Friday Florence's arrival would come with "catastrophic" fresh water flooding over portions of the Carolinas.
North Carolina alone is forecast to get 9.6 trillion gallons enough to cover the Tar Heel state to a depth of about 10 inches. Hundreds more were rescued elsewhere from rising water.
The NWS reported "lots of tree damage, debris and power lines down" across Harkers Island, N.C. Airlines canceled more than 2,400 flights through Sunday.
Firefighters and police fought wind and rain as they went door-to-door to pull people out after the cinderblock structure began to crumble and the roof started to collapse.
Another Twitter user posted shared video footage of a ravaging Neuse River in North Carolina.
"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the city tweeted during the height of the storm.
"We're on our way, we will get you rescued", Outlaw said while cautioning that first responders have to be careful of their own safety.
He wrote: "Getting real serious in Buxton".
"We live in a mobile home so we were just like 'No way, '" she said.
200 people have been rescued from homes in New Bern, while another 150 were trapped on Friday morning.
People have left homes and taken precautions ahead of the hurricane.
"Honestly, I grew up in Wilmington".
The White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump had spoken with state and local officials, assuring them the federal government was prepared to help.