"We hit every one of them immediately and it paid off".
Casey was playing with two other children, and when those kids came inside without Casey, the grandmother and others spent 45 minutes searching before calling 911, authorities said, according to WCTI.
The FBI confirmed that Casey has been found alive.
Authorities said the boy's grandmother was watching the boy and two other young children at the time.
Hundreds of volunteers helped state and federal law enforcement comb the rugged area, joined by canines, aircraft and drones.
News outlets report heavy rains and strong winds are expected Thursday as officials search for Casey Hathaway, who has been missing since Tuesday. Even trained searchers were experiencing difficulties.
Temperatures are expected to fall to near freezing Thursday in the area near where Casey disappeared, Hughes said, creating concern for authorities, who already are facing rugged, hard terrain.
"We did not give up".
Hathaway is receiving medical treatment for cuts and scrapes at Carolina East Medical Center, said Shelley Lynch, spokeswoman for the FBI Charlotte field office. "The little fella is happy".
Casey's mother, Brittany Hathaway, thanked everyone.
Hughes said at a Thursday press briefing before Casey was found that the search was being treated as a missing-child investigation and not regarded as being suspicious. Tears filled her eyes as she said, "He is good". "He's already asked to watch Netflix, so he's good".
She held the arm of Chocowinity Emergency Medical Services Capt. Shane Grier, who found the boy in nearby woods after responding to a local resident's tip. "The other ones come through the house but left him there and he walked off somewhere and we can't find him".
Hughes said there is no sign of abduction in this case. "He was walking in the woods back there and we can't find him".
The boy was cold and wet, with a few scrapes and cuts. "We were very impressed by that, it was very positive information given the amount of time he had been exposed to the environment, to the elements and conditions". "We're very fortunate for where we are".
Sheriff Chip Hughes said the child wasn't dressed properly for the weather. Hathaway was taken to a hospital where he is expected to be released on Friday or Saturday.