North Carolina Gov Roy Cooper called Florence an "uninvited brute" that could wipe out entire communities as it grinds its way across land.
In the neighborhood where the mother and child died, resident Frank Hendrickson pointed to a tree that fell next door to him but spared a neighbor's house.
Mandatory evacuations were ordered ahead of Florence's landfall in parts of North and SC, though many people chose to remain in their homes for reasons ranging from financial concerns and the need to care for pets that they may not have been able to take to some evacuation shelters, some who stayed in their residences told ABC News ahead of the storm.
An estimated 10 to 15 inches of rain has already fallen in some areas of North Carolina and the heavy rain is expected to continue for days, with more than 40 inches believed to be possible. That could affect the infrastructure, bridges, residences, farms and other buildings, Dahler said.
"Our hearts go out to the families of those who died in this storm", Cooper said in a statement on Friday.
"Second, know that water is rising fast everywhere, even in places that don't typically flood".
Some towns have received more than two feet of rain from Florence, and forecasters warned that drenching rains totalling up to three-and-a-half feet of water could trigger epic flooding well inland through early next week.
While it had weakened significantly since peaking as a Category 5 storm in the Atlantic, the heavy rain bands and slow movement have caused catastrophic flooding and storm surge along the coast. Scores of people still await rescue there.More news: Reasons why Dybala to Manchester United rumours may be true
More than 12,000 were in shelters in North Carolina.
"Some of our beloved bears have wandered away", city officials tweeted next to a picture of the statue.
Firefighters said the area had not been in the zone under evacuation orders. And a man was knocked to the ground while outside and died, authorities said.
The White House announced that President Donald Trump has issued a disaster declaration for North Carolina, which will make federal money available to people in the counties of Beaufort, Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, and Pender.
That's just the number of customers without power in the Carolinas.
As of Saturday morning, the National Hurricane Center announced that Florence is now a tropical storm with maximum wind speeds of 45 miles per hour and said heavy rains and catastrophic flooding will continue across portions of North and SC.
The military announced Saturday it was deploying almost 200 soldiers to assist in storm-related response and recovery efforts, along with 100 trucks and equipment. Rescue crews have used boats to reach hundreds besieged by the rising waters.