Dolphins swimming in flood water caused by Hurricane Florence

NOAA  Getty Images

NOAA Getty Images

"If you live in a floodplain and planned on staying, you might need to reevaluate", said Joel Cline, a North Carolina native and meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center.

The National Hurricane Center says in its 5 a.m. update Sunday that excessive amounts of rain are still being dumped in North Carolina and the effect is expected to be "catastrophic".

Tropical Storm Florence dumped "epic" amounts of rain on North and SC as it trudged inland yesterday, triggering unsafe flooding, knocking out power in almost 900,000 homes and businesses, and causing at least eight deaths.

A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on a house, according to a tweet from Wilmington police.

There have been seven storm-related deaths since Florence, then a Category-1 hurricane, made landfall Friday morning.

Tropical Storm Florence keeps drenching the central Carolinas and is expected to generate up to 380 millimetres of rain before it swings north over the Appalachian Mountains and into the Ohio Valley on Monday.

On Saturday some residents tried to return home, driving through flooded highways and armed with chainsaws to clear fallen pine trees that covered the road.

Cooper said others should not follow suit.

"All persons who refuse or fail to comply with this mandatory evacuation order shall do so at their own risk", the official announcement said, adding that emergency responders and other rescue personnel may not come to save them after the evacuation deadline passes.

"Know that water is rising fast everywhere, even in places that don't typically flood". "This system is unloading epic amounts of rainfall".

The National Hurricane Centre (NHC) downgraded it to a tropical storm, but warned it would dump as much as 76cm to 102cm of rain on the south-eastern coast of North Carolina and parts of north-eastern SC.

Some of the worst flooding was in New Bern, North Carolina, a town of about 30,000 people at the confluence of the Trent and Neuse rivers.

US Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Karl Schultz meanwhile told ABC 28 aircraft had been deployed as well as 35 "shallow water rescue teams". "We want you home but you can't come yet".

'We have 4,200 damaged homes, ' Mayor Dana Outlaw told CNN.

Over a million residents in North Carolina are now without power and authorities have confirmed at least five deaths.

Officials are expecting tens of thousands of homes to be damaged because of the storm, but the full total won't be known until the storm leaves.

Authorities in SC reported one death, saying a woman was killed when her vehicle struck a fallen tree.

Willard said in a statement their bodies were found in a Loris home Saturday afternoon, but they likely died the day before as the heavy rains and winds from former hurricane-turned-Tropical Depression Florence were moving onshore.

"Flash flood warnings are now in effect across a large portion of southeastern North Carolina and portions of far northeastern SC".

The White House said yesterday President Donald Trump had approved making federal funding available in some counties.

Besides devastating storm surges, sustained winds of over 100 miles per hour, and catastrophic flooding, another problem is now bedeviling homeowners and business owners in the region: looters. Disaster response efforts are underway.

Though the popular North Carolina tourist destination seems to have been spared the worst of Florence's wrath, the islands still have some of the fastest rates of sea level rise in the world, almost an inch a year.

Tornadoes remain a threat, with the NHC saying that 'a few tornadoes are possible in southeastern North Carolina and northeastern SC'.

After looking at an analysis of expected rainfall, flooding and the effects of Hurricane Matthew, which hit SC as a Category 1 storm in 2016, officials determined that the Pee Dee River basin could flood, swelling rivers that would overtake a number of bridges on major routes, as early as Monday night.

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