The 63-year-old former firefighter says he was able to sleep through the torrential rain and thrashing winds when then-Hurricane Florence made landfall early Friday morning, only waking up to texts he received at 7 a.m. from friends checking up on him.
"More people die from storm surge than any proponent of hurricanes", Kottlowsk tells TIME.
As 400-mile-wide Florence pounded away at the coast with torrential downpours and surging seas, rescue crews used boats to reach scores of people besieged by rising waters along a river.
Jamie Thompson walks through flooded sections of East Front Street near Union Point Park in New Bern, N.C. Forecasters said conditions will deteriorate throughout Friday.
"You can't get over till we have power and we have sewer up and running", said the retired teacher and real estate agent, who rode out the hurricane in an inland hotel.
North Carolina's governor, Roy Cooper, said Florence was set to cover nearly all of the state in several feet of water.
The National Hurricane Centre said a gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, reported 6.3 feet (1.92 metres) of inundation.
"And when the tide comes back up around noon, we will be inundated with additional storm surge", she said.
Adding to concerns, forecasters warned the larger and slow-moving storm could linger for days around the coast, leaving many without power and supplies. "It's an uninvited brute who doesn't want to leave".
There were no immediate reports of storm-related deaths or serious injuries.
Downed trees, branches on the hurricane-lashed streets of Wilmington, North Carolina.
Hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles.
A storm surge warning is in effect for South Santee River South Carolina to Duck North Carolina. Significant weakening is expected over the weekend.
The worst of the storm's fury had yet to reach coastal SC, where emergency managers said it was not too late for people to get out. By that time, emergency crews had already been deployed to parts of the state where people were trapped by floodwaters.
Tom Balance, owner of a seafood restaurant in New Bern, had decided against evacuating his home and was soon alarmed to see waves coming off the Neuse and the water getting higher and higher.
Jason O. Boyd, the station's digital media manager, posted on the official Twitter account shortly after midnight to say that everyone got out safely.
Officials in South Carolina's Craven County say conditions are much worse than some residents expected, with almost 500 people calling the local emergency services hotline asking for help. "We're working with our partners to provide food, water and snacks".