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As shelters prepare for coastal evacuees, some worry about Florence’s impact on central NC

September 12, 2018
As shelters prepare for coastal evacuees, some worry about Florence's impact on central NC

As coastal residents prepare for Hurricane Florence, officials told evacuees from the Wilmington area to head to specific shelters in Wake County that have been designated for New Hanover County residents.

Given that Raleigh is also being told to prepare for the storm, which is expected to make landfall in the Carolinas as a Category 3 hurricane, some are asking if Raleigh is far enough inland to be considered safe.

Directory of Emergency Management Mike Sprayberry said he does believe shelters in Wake County are far enough inland to protect evacuees and said that officials were careful to chose locations that were located away from rivers, lakes and other areas prone to flooding.

Knightdale High School is just one of several shelters being set up for evacuees from the coast, and people were expected to begin arriving Tuesday night.

Cots and disposable sleeping bags were already set up inside the school and all who seek shelter at the school will have water, meals and access to medical care.

“We do have clinicians on staff here. We understand some folks will come here with medical needs,” shelter manager Ross Yeager said. “We also are a pet-friendly shelter.”

The shelter at Knightdale High School officially opened at 2 p.m. Tuesday and Yeager said two others in Wake County will open Tuesday evening. The Knightdale shelter is prepared to accommodate 450 people.

“The wisdom is they’re going to be infinitely safer this far inland than where they’re coming from if they’re coming from the coast,” Yeager said.

With a small bag and his oxygen tanks, Mark Ericksen left Hatteras and he doesn’t think he will ever see his house again.

“I’m going to miss my home. There’s not any one thing, it’s everything. It’s 64 years of my history there,” he said. “I never did a whole lot with my life, but I’m living where I want to live in my old age, not everybody can say that, so I figure I’ve done pretty well.”

Across the gym, Lindell Henderson tried to make her cot feel a little more like home. At age 77, Tuesday was her first time evacuating but she made the decision “when I realized how close we were to the water and that it was a Category 4 storm.”

“Once you’re dead, you’re dead. There’s no coming back from that, so that was kind of where I was,” Henderson said of her decision to leave.

Knightdale High School has a backup generator if the area loses power, which is part of the reason the school was selected to serve as a shelter.

The National Hurricane Center on Tuesday evening issued a hurricane warning for a large portion of the North Carolina coastline as Gov. Roy Cooper issued what administrators are calling the first evacuation order in state history.

North Carolina traditionally allows city and county officials to determine emergency evacuations. The governor noted his state order is a first as far as he knows, but he said he believes it’s necessary.

“We think this storm is so fierce that we need the added incentive of a state evacuation order to make sure that these people on the barrier islands leave,” he said.

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