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Tropical Storm Florence lumbered inland on Saturday, knocking down trees, flooding rivers, and dumping sheets of rain in the Carolinas where five people have died.

"The National Hurricane Center said Florence is moving very slowly to the west at only 6 miles an hour, then is expected to turn to the southwest, increasing the threat for historic storm surge and catastrophic flooding to coastline areas and inland cities in North Carolina and SC".

More than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing cinderblock motel at the height of the storm.

In Wilmington, a city of about 120,000 on North Carolina's Atlantic coastline, along the Cape Fear River that is home to historic mansions, streets were strewn with downed tree limbs and carpeted with leaves and other debris. The child's father was taken to a hospital.

Two people died in Lenoir County. 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.

Boats pushed away from the dock are seen on a street during the passing of Hurricane Florence in the town of New Bern.

Images and video posted on Twitter from the town of Washington, North Carolina, show that floodwaters have travelled as much as 30 miles (nearly 50 kilometers) inland along the Pamlico River, drowning the riverfront.

Hundreds more had to be rescued elsewhere from rising waters, and others could only hold out hope someone would come for them. As Cooper said, "There's nowhere for the water to go". "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU".

Dan Eudy said he and his brother were awakened on Thursday night by the sound of a boat ramming his front porch.

The storm had picked up some pace and was moving at 10 miles per hour (16 kph), up from 6 miles per hour.

By early afternoon, Florence's winds had weakened to 75 miles per hour, just barely a hurricane and well below the storm's terrifying Category 4 peak of 140 miles per hour earlier in the week.

"Trees are blowing down in the wind".

More than 10 million people throughout North and SC and Virginia are under a hurricane or tropical storm watch or warning as of Friday, according to the National Weather Service. About 10 million people could be affected by the storm.

More than 22,600 people were housed in 150 shelters statewide, including schools, churches and Wake Forest University's basketball arena.

Although the National Hurricane Center (NHC) has downgraded Florence to a depression, it warns that "rainfall amounts will produce catastrophic flash flooding, prolonged significant river flooding, and an elevated risk for landslides in western North Carolina and far southwest Viriginia".

North Carolina corrections officials said more than 3,000 people were relocated from adult prisons and juvenile centers in the path of Florence, and more than 300 county prisoners were transferred to state facilities.

About 668,000 homes and businesses were without power in North and SC and surrounding states, down from a peak of almost 1 million.

Leaves, branches and other debris surround and cover a sports vehicle after Hurricane Florence hit Wilmington. Trump plans a visit to the region next week.

Life-threatening Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15am local time (11:30am GMT) at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington. The storm is expected to turn west and then north moving through the Carolinas and the Ohio Valley by Monday, the NHC said early on Saturday.

"Even if you've ridden out storms before, this one is different", Gov. Roy Cooper said.

Federal officials are urging anyone who ignored orders to evacuate from Hurricane Florence to hunker down and stay put until the storm passes.