Florence flattened trees, crumbled roads and knocked out power to more than 700,000 homes and businesses, and the assault wasn't near an end. The storm knocked out power to more than 890,000 homes and businesses, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the USA electrical grid.
"This is an uninvited brute that just won't leave", Cooper said on "Today".
In the besieged North Carolina town of New Bern, rescuers plucked more than 100 people from rising waters, but about 150 more had to wait when conditions worsened and a storm surge reached 10 feet.
A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on a house, according to a tweet from Wilmington police. A 78-year-old man was electrocuted attempting to connect extension cords while another man died when he was blown down by high winds while checking on his hunting dogs, a county spokesman said. News stations and citizens captured footage of the waters pouring down streets and invading homes.
"I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth".
Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina at about 7:30 on Friday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind.
Some areas of North Carolina saw nearly a foot of rain in just a few hours. The hurricane is expected to make landfall on Friday, with heavy rain and hurricane-force winds potentially lasting for days.
President Donald Trump, left, talks about Hurricane Florence during a briefing in the Oval Office of the White House. Another one of the bears ended up in the middle of the street in the background.
On the forecast track, the center of Florence is expected to move inland across extreme southeastern North Carolina and extreme eastern SC today and Saturday.
The National Hurricane Center said that freshwater flooding is expected over portions of the Carolinas as Hurricane Florence inches closer to the US East Coast.
About 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.
Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of an environmental disaster from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.
In this photo provided by NASA, Hurricane Florence churns over the Atlantic Ocean heading for the USA east coast as seen from the International Space Station.
Southeastern coastal North Carolina into far northeastern SC...an additional 20 to 25 inches, with isolated storm totals of 30 to 40 inches.
After landfall, Florence slowed to a pace that meant it would plague the area with days of flooding.
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 (25 centimeters). Waters will rise further as tides are expected to come back.
The Wilmington airport had a wind gust clocked at 105 miles per hour (169 kph), the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958, the weather service said.
Canceled more than 1,300 flights along the East Coast through Friday.
"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", a tweet from the city overnight said.
"You can't get over till we have power and we have sewer up and running", said the retired teacher and real estate agent, who rode out the hurricane in an inland hotel.
"The wind was so hard, the waters were so hard".
"Very eerie, the wind howling, the rain blowing sideways, debris flying", said Orsa, who lives nearby and feared splintering trees would pummel her house. Dozens more were pulled from a collapsed motel.
"Honestly, I grew up in Wilmington".
No one was injured, city officials said.