Florence live coverage: 'This flooding is only going to get worse'

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The Marines, the Coast Guard, civilian crews and volunteers used helicopters, boats and heavy-duty vehicles Saturday to rescue scores of people trapped by Florence’s shoreline onslaught, even as North Carolina braced for what could be the next stage of the disaster: widespread, catastrophic flooding inland.
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There have been at least seven people confirmed killed in North Carolina as a result of the storm.

A day after blowing ashore with 90 mph winds, Florence practically parked itself over land all day long and poured on the rain. With rivers rising toward record levels, thousands of people were ordered evacuated for fear the next few days could bring the most destructive round of flooding in North Carolina history.

More than 2 feet of rain had fallen in places, and the drenching went on and on, with forecasters saying there could be an additional 1 feet by the end of the weekend.

By 5 p.m. Florence remained a tropical storm but its winds had slowed to 45 mph gusts. It was creeping west at 2 mph.

Florence was downgraded to a Tropical Storm Friday.

More than 360 people had been rescued by mid-afternoon Friday, but another 140 were still waiting for help in New Bern.

Watch: Family of evacuees seeks shelter in Harnett County

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Among the dead are a mother and baby who died after a tree fell on their home. Another person died as a result of a medical incident in Pender County, according to Pender County Emergency Management Director Tom Collins. The woman was at her home in Hampstead. Emergency crews were unable to get to her because of a downed tree in the road. Her death was later attributed to Florence.

Hurricane Florence made landfall just before 7:30 Friday morning in Wrightsville Beach as Category 1 storm with maximum 90 mph winds.

New Bern quickly started to flood, causing more than 100 water rescues.

RELATED: How the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina is helping Florence evacuees

ABC11’s Julie Wilson accompanied one team of volunteers and helped save a dog.

The state has opened more than 120 shelters for Florence evacuees.

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POWER OUTAGES: Thousands are already without power. Stay updated on outages here.

5 p.m.

Florence remained a tropical storm with maximum-sustained winds of 45 mph. It was creeping west at 2 mph and could possibly be downgraded to a tropical depression by Sunday.

3:30 p.m.

Authorities said at a press conference that the impact of Florence would be felt for days to come.

“Let me assure you – this flooding is only going to get worse,” North Carolina’s director of emergency management Mike Sprayberry said.

Authorities said 100 primary roads have been affected by the storm so far.

RELATED: NC Road closures and re-openings

2 p.m.

In Morehead City, Florence broke a state record for highest rainfall total by a tropical system.

1 p.m.

Water boil advisory issued for Wayne County as officials evaluate water outages in Southeastern Wayne Sanitary District area.

12 p.m.

Tornado Warning issued for Duplin County until 12:15 p.m.

Tornado Warning issued for Sampson County until 11:45 a.m.

11 a.m.

During a news conference, Gov. Cooper instructs residents who have evacuated to “stay put.”

“We know that people are anxious to get back home, but don’t go back until this storm passes, and you get the official all-clear.”

He said rivers, creeks, and other waterways are expected to rise and possibly crest on Monday.

10 a.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump has issued a disaster declaration for North Carolina and that will make federal money available to people in the counties of Beaufort, Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico and Pender.

Government aid can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of Hurricane Florence.

Money also is available to the state, some local governments, and some private nonprofit groups on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in those counties.

8:30 a.m.

Mandatory evacuation issued for Harnett County residents along the Lower Little River near the Cumberland County line.

The National Weather Service is now predicting the Lower Little River at Manchester to crest at 35.4 feet at approximately 8 a.m. Monday.

A third emergency shelter will open at Western Harnett High School at noon.

7 a.m.

Tornado Watch issued for Wilson, Moore and Lee counties until 5 p.m.

Full list of counties under Tornado Watch here.

5 a.m.

The storm was located 35 miles west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The storm was moving at 5 mph with 50 mph winds.

Storm Surge Warnings are in effect for Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina, and Pamlico Sound, including the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers.

1:30 a.m.

Tropical Storm Florence is practically stalled over the Carolinas and the monster storm could dump drenching rains of up to 3 feet. That, in turn, could trigger epic flooding well inland.

Gov. Roy Cooper calls Florence the “uninvited brute” that could wipe out entire communities. The storm is still roughly 400 miles wide.

Early Saturday morning Florence’s winds weakened to 65 mph as it moved forward at 5 mph and was about 15 miles west-northwest of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

(Copyright ©2018 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved – The Associated Press contributed to this report.)