"The sun rose this morning on an extremely unsafe situation and it's getting worse", Cooper said, calling Florence a "thousand-year rain event".
At least four people have died since Hurricane Florence crashed into the coast Friday and almost stalled.
North Carolina's governor Roy Cooper described the storm as "an uninvited brute who doesn't want to leave".
He said he did not know the family well but that the couple had multiple young children. "Our focus now is getting people away from immediate danger". Dozens more were rescued from a collapsed motel.
A speed boat sits wedged in bushes in the parking lot of a waterfront hotel in New Bern, North Carolina, on September 14, 2018.
Florence flattened trees, buckled buildings and crumpled roads.
As the rough winds toppled trees and power lines Friday, power was knocked out to more than 700,000 North Carolina customers.
A mother and her baby died when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington, North Carolina.
USA media later said a second man in Lenoir County died after heavy winds knocked him down as he tried to check on his dogs. River flooding may be worse than Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
"I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth", he said.
The storm, which made landfall Friday morning as a Category 1, is expected to continue to soak the area throughout the weekend. It came ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.
So far, no Kenyan has been reported dead in the aftermath of the hurricane that made landfall on Friday morning. The system was downgraded to a tropical storm on Friday afternoon but remained a slow-moving destructive storm.
But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind.
Parts of North and SC can expect an additional 10 to 15 inches.
At 8 a.m. EDT, the Miami-based hurricane center said rainfall will continue to produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding.
Tropical Storm Florence keeps drenching the central Carolinas, with an additional 10 to 15 inches of rain expected before it finally swings north over the Appalachian Mountains and into the Ohio Valley on Monday.
Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of an environmental disaster 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 previous year for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the death toll was put at almost 3,000. CORRECTING TYPO IN CITY NAME People are rescued by members of the U.S. Army during the passing of Hurricane Florence in the town of New Bern, North Carolina, U.S. September 14, 2018. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with almost 4 inches (10 centimeters) of water, he calculated. As they work into our area, it'll be nothing more than a good soaking of rain.
In the besieged city of New Bern, rescuers had plucked more than 200 people from rising waters by midmorning Friday, but about 150 more had to wait as conditions worsened and a storm surge reached 10 feet, officials said. "We are stuck in the attic".
"The wind was so hard, the waters were so hard ..." A 78-year-old man was electrocuted at his home while attempting to connect two extension cords outside in the rain, Dail said.