The tropical depression will keep dumping rain over parts of North Carolina for the next few days, with numerous rivers expected to crest at major flood stage. Up to 20,000 people are in emergency shelters in North Carolina alone.
"For many parts of North Carolina, the danger is still immediate", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said at a news conference Monday.
In a separate briefing, Steve Goldstein of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said some areas have already received two feet of rain and could expect up to 20 inches more as the system moved "slowly, almost stationary" over eastern North Carolina.
Brock Long, of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said to expect more storm damage in North Carolina and other states.
Meanwhile, throwing a lifeline to a city surrounded by floodwaters, emergency crews delivered food and water to Wilmington, N.C., on Monday as rescuers picked up more people stranded by Hurricane Florence and the storm's remnants took aim at the densely populated Northeast.
A man carries a woman from her flooded home.
The cost of the damage is expected to reach $15 billion for North Carolina, $2 billion for SC and $1 billion elsewhere, said Chuck Watson, a disaster researcher at Enki Research in Savannah, Georgia.
The death toll attributed to Florence stands at 17, including 11 in North Carolina and six in SC.
Officials warned that up to 50in of rain could cause catastrophic flooding into next week, with warnings that landslides could occur across western North Carolina. Police were guarding the door of one store, AP said, which would only let 10 people in at a time. Nor is it clear whether efforts to drain waste-processing facilities for North Carolina's massive hog industry succeeded before rainfall that reached 40 inches in places.
As Florence heads north and east, it will be moving at a faster pace, but there is still the potential for 4-6 inches of rain in parts of Pennsylvania and NY, mainly upstate.
"The worst is yet to come", as river levels rise to historic levels, said Zach Taylor, an NWS meteorologist.
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The flow of traffic Monday from North Carolina into SC was considerably less than it normally would be because large portions of I-95 in the Tar Heel State were closed due to flooding.
Forecasters fear that the coming days could bring the worst flooding in North Carolina's history as rivers swell towards record levels.
"Many of our people are going to be going through assessments here over the weeks and months to be able to quantify the magnitude, but already we have 17 people who have died", Cooper said during a briefing Monday afternoon.
Horry County Council Chair Mark Lazarus warned people not to focus on the storm leaving the area.
Flying over Fayetteville, he said, "it was stark to see the raging Cape Fear River, and you knew it was rising, and you could see these vulnerable communities". "They have not even begun (to crest)".
"Don't make yourself someone who needs to be rescued".
As rivers swelled, state regulators and environmental groups monitored the threat from huge hog and poultry farms in low-lying, flood-prone areas.
The industrial-scale farms contain vast pits of animal faeces and urine that can pose a significant pollution threat if they are breached or inundated by floodwaters.
'All roads in the state right now are at risk of floods, ' he said. Relatives say that whether they stay or go, they'll have damage to contend with.