Police confirmed the fatalities on Twitter, saying the father of the child was being transported to a local medical centre to be treated for his injuries.
The biggest danger, as forecasters saw it, was not the wind but the water: the storm surge along the coastline and the prospect of 300 to 1000mm of rain over the next several days that could trigger catastrophic flooding in a slow-motion disaster well inland.
"Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said. "Surviving this storm with be a test of endurance, teamwork, common sense and patience". Florence is already causing power outages, with the U.S. Energy Department reporting that almost 400,000 customers have lost power in North and SC.
Duke said it had more than 20,000 personnel ready to start fixing outages as soon as conditions allowed, including over 8,000 from the Duke's Carolinas utilities, 1,700 from the Midwest, 1,200 from Florida and 9,400 from other utilities.
They added that the onslaught would last for hours because Florence was barely creeping along at 9km an hour and still drawing energy from the ocean.
According to forecasters, the center of Florence is expected to hit North Carolina's southern coast Friday, then drift southwest before moving inland on Saturday.
These types of slow-moving storms - like Hurricane Harvey - can be particularly risky because of the rain and flooding they can bring. "This one is set to linger right where it is for at least 48 hours".
Sheets of rain splattered against windows of a hotel before daybreak in Wilmington, where Sandie Orsa of Wilmington sat in a lobby lit by emergency lights after the electricity went out.
"Trees are blowing down in the wind".
The top wind gusts were reported in Raleigh are at 39 miles per hour.
As Hurricane Florence crashed onto the Carolinas, federal emergency teams prepared themselves to work on a long process of rebuilding the storm-battered landscape it would leave behind.
North Carolina alone is forecast to get 36 trillion litres, enough to cover the North Carolina to a depth of about 25 cm. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire. Some 1.7 million people have been ordered to evacuate across the East Coast and around 10 million are under hurricane watches.
Myrtle Beach, a SC beach resort, was deserted with empty streets, boarded up storefronts and very little traffic.
Storm surges of up to six feet were forecast for Belhaven, North Carolina, where this video was recorded on the night of September 13. It caused most of the 1,200 deaths in Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
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