A killer storm that killed up to 13 people weakened to a tropical depression on Sunday, but US officials warned that the devastation it caused, including catastrophic floods, is far from over.
Most of the deaths in Florence, which hit land on Friday as a Category 1 hurricane, occurred in North Carolina, where authorities confirmed the existence of eight victims. Among them, three who died "due to flash floods and fast water on the roads," the Duplin County Sheriff's Office reported.
A woman and her baby were among the first victims when a tree fell at home, contributing to a death toll that according to US media reached 13-10 in North Carolina and three in South Carolina, according to the CNN
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) lowered Florence to a tropical depression on Sunday morning, adding that "flash floods and major river floods will continue in a large part of the Carolinas."
Starting at 5:00 a.m. (0900 GMT) on Sunday, maximum sustained winds had weakened to about 56 kilometers (35 miles) per hour, the NHC said.
On Saturday, some residents tried to return home, driving on flooded roads and armed with chainsaws to clear the fallen pine trees that covered the road.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned against such behavior as roads became increasingly dangerous.
Epic rain & # 39;
"All roads in the state at this time are at risk of flooding," he said. "As the rivers continue to rise and the rain continues to fall, the floods will spread, and more and more counties in the interior are issuing mandatory evacuations to get people safely out quickly."
He previously said that the storm system "is discharging epic amounts of rain: in some places, measured in feet, not inches."
Steve Goldstein of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said some areas already received two feet of rain and could wait up to 20 inches more as the system moved "slowly, almost stationary" over eastern North Carolina.
In New Bern, a city facing the river off the coast of North Carolina that saw storms of up to 10 feet (three meters), residents evaluated the damage after the flood waters began to subside and authorities rescued hundreds of people stranded
Charles Rucker, a retired teacher, had only spent five nights in his newly purchased house, built in 1830, when Florence struck.
"It was like a bullet train going through the living room, nothing I experienced before was really scared," he told AFP.
"We have 4,200 damaged homes," Mayor Dana Outlaw told CNN.
The doors of many houses suffered so much damage from the wind that they seemed to have been kicked, while the city's beloved fiberglass bear statues, which are sponsored by local businesses, were floating around the streets.
However, authorities said that 16 wild ponies on the island of Ocracoke, hit by a hurricane, located off the coast of North Carolina, were safe.
The governor of South Carolina, Henry McMaster, announced on Saturday that a 61-year-old woman had died when her car hit a fallen tree.
CNN also reported that a man and a woman died in Horry County in South Carolina due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday night that "there have been five deaths so far" and expressed solidarity with the families of the victims.
The White House said Trump will visit hurricane-affected areas next week "once it is determined that his trip will not interrupt any rescue or recovery efforts."
More than 800,000 customers in North Carolina had no electricity and 21,000 people were housed in 157 shelters throughout the state.
The military announced on Saturday that it was deploying about 200 soldiers to help with the storm's response and recovery efforts, along with 100 trucks and equipment.
In addition to the federal and state emergency teams, rescuers were aided by volunteers from the "Cajun Navy" – civilians equipped with light boats, canoes and air mattresses – who also showed up in Houston during Hurricane Harvey to carry out rescues of water.
Hurricane Florence made landfall on Friday in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, after stalking the coast for days.
Tornadoes remain a threat, and the NHC says that "some tornadoes are still possible in North Carolina and eastern South Carolina."