Cooper also points the worst of the storm is yet to come.
The National Hurricane Center said the storm would dump as much as 30 to 40 inches (76-102 cm) of rain on the southeastern coast of North Carolina and part of northeastern SC, as well as up to 10 inches (25 cm) in southwestern Virginia.
The storm was expected to move across parts of southeastern North Carolina and eastern SC on Friday and Saturday, then head north over the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC said.
Florence's forward movement during the day slowed to a crawl - sometimes it was moving no faster than a human can walk - and that enabled it to pile on the rain. He said parts of North Carolina had seen storm surges - the bulge of seawater pushed ashore by the hurricane - as high as 10 feet.
"For our customers, I know they normally expect to see us immediately after the storm rolls through, but it's not safe for us to be out there working", he said. It was downgraded to Category 1 before coming ashore on Friday near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, North Carolina.
North Carolinians made last-minute preparations and hunkered down to await Florence's arrival.
Forecasters said that given the storm's size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses and washing over industrial waste sites and hog-manure ponds. "Whether you have a house or not, when the storm comes it will bring everyone together".
"We're a little anxious about the storm surge so we came down to see what the river is doing now", Smith said.
Surges up to 4 meters could inundate Cape Fear, North Carolina to Cape Lookout, North Carolina, with smaller surges ranging from half a meter to 3 meters in coastal areas from Edisto Beach, South Carolina to coastal areas extending north into North Carolina. SC saw 18.51 inches of rain from Hurricane Jerry in 1995.
The swirl of red, yellow and green along the East Coast of the United States is Florence, a massive storm whose severity has been downgraded to Category 1 - but still packs high winds, torrential rain and storm surge.
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Soren Rundquist, Environmental Working Group's director of spatial analysis, said if the rainfall projections hold up, the flood waters will simply take what was sprayed on the fields with them, along with what spills out of the pits.
This vulnerable area has been under mandatory-evacuation orders since Wednesday night at 8 p.m., and those who are choosing to ride out the storm have been under a mandatory curfew since that time, to keep people inside.
While the storm system will churn over the same areas for 24 hours, the high winds and rain will begin pummeling parts of North and South Carolina Thursday evening and last through Saturday - creating a 36 to 48-hour period of risky weather for some areas. In the Philippines, evacuations were under way with Super Typhoon Mangkhut expected to hit on Saturday in an area impacting an estimated 5.2 million people. "Leaving is such a problem with the traffic going out", Jennie told VOA Thursday afternoon as she strolled along the shore of Carolina Beach near Wilmington, North Carolina.
"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the city of New Bern tweeted around 2 a.m.
Her friend Kate is refusing to evacuate as well because of "the idea of having to leave with my two cats and go somewhere for a week or more".
"The anxiety level has dropped substantially", Epperson said.
He said that people living near rivers, streams and lowland areas in the region were most at risk. In South Carolina there were 7,000 people staying in shelters, according to the state's emergency management office.
Meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com said Florence could dump a staggering 18 trillion gallons (68 trillion liters) of rain over a week on North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland.
"We'll handle it. We're ready. But we're going to be okay", he said.
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