Florence was packing 120mph winds (193km/h) on Thursday but weakened from a Category 3 hurricane to Category 1 before it hit the coastline on Friday.
"We're in God's hands", said Rick Foreman, pastor at West Lumberton Baptist Church, as the Lumber River steadily rose Friday and local residents filled sandbags.
On Saturday some residents tried to return to home, driving through flooded highways armed with chainsaws to clear fallen pine needle trees that covered the road.
"Very eerie, the wind howling, the rain blowing sideways, debris flying", said Orsa, who lives nearby and feared splintering trees would pummel her house. A 78-year-old man was electrocuted attempting to connect extension cords while another man perished when he was blown down by high winds while checking on his hunting dogs, a county spokesman said. With half of the storm still out over the Atlantic, Florence continued to collect warm ocean water and dump it on land.
Glover speculated that part of the problem could stem from an "until I can get to higher ground and make sure my family is safe, I can't talk to media", mindset.
The storm made landfall at Wrightsville Beach at 7:15 a.m., with maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Mother Lesha Murphy-Johnson and her baby, Zac, were killed after being trapped inside their home in Wilmington when a tree fell onto the roof at around 9.30am on Friday.
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.
"The wind was so hard, the waters were so hard that, trying to get out, we got thrown into trailers".
Two other rain collection locations for NOAA are approaching the 1999 mark as well - Newport/Morehead City is at 23.75 inches and Emerald Isle is at 23.66 inches.
The effects of Florence won't be fading anytime soon, either, as current forecasts have upwards of 15-to-20 additional inches of rain possible for areas of North and SC will Florence's remnants will linger for the next 48 to 72 hours. Thousands of people have been forced to evacuate and the flooding for the next few days can be the most destructive in the state's history. Hundreds were rescued in New Bern, a city of 30,000 at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers.
Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of environmental havoc from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.
Florence could become a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared a year ago for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the death toll was put at almost 3,000. Fast moving waters proved otherwise.
And weather officials said more is coming, labeling as "extreme" the impacts from storm surge and flash flooding. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay, or cover the entire state of Texas with almost 4 inches of water.
More than 12,000 people were in shelters in North Carolina and 400 in Virginia, where the forecast was less dire.
United States media later said a man in Lenoir County died after heavy winds knocked him down as he tried to check on his dogs.
"Sooner or later we need to get out of there", Orrin H. Pilkey, a professor emeritus of geology at Duke University, told The Associated Press before the storm hit.