77-Year-Old on Florence Evacuation: “Once You’re Dead, You’re Dead”

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KNIGHTDALE, N.C. – Wake County, North Carolina opened its first shelter as a result of Hurricane Florence Tuesday afternoon, with two more set to open Wednesday.

The shelter at Knightdale High School on Bryan Chalk Lane opened at 2 p.m.

Ross Yeager, Wake County’s Human Services north regional center director, said the school is designated as a CRES shelter to accommodate people who’ve been told they need to leave the Outer Banks.

“It does not mean it’s not open to other folks, it’s just that’s the priority,” Yeager said.

Yeager said some coastal residents will be bused into the shelter, which has space for 450 people.

“To be honest with you, I feel like we’re probably going to hit that, now that the other regions have been told they have to evacuate,” he said.

Hatteras resident Lindell Henderson was one of the first to arrive at the shelter Tuesday. The 77-year-old grandmother said that she rode out Hurricane Matthew, but this storm felt different. 

Henderson left her cat and a lot of prized possessions, but said she thinks it’s the right move, and wants others to do the same.

“I’d say do it because once you’re dead, you’re dead. There’s no coming back from that,” Henderson said.

Two buses from New Hanover county pulled in Tuesday night. Zatia Johnson said she and her family have been watching the storm forecast closely.

“My parents and my family took it very seriously,” she says. “It was coming straight on the coast and we’re surrounded by water.”

Wake County plans to open two more shelters for coastal evacuees Wednesday morning — one in Garner and another in southeast Raleigh — according to a Wake County spokeswoman. She also said that, within the next 24 hours, the county will announce plans for shelters for local residents who need them. 

The shelters are designated for coastal evacuees, but Yeager said they will not turn other people away.

“This is going to affect the whole state. Our priority now is the coastal communities, but that priority could extend to the whole state,” Yeager said.

He added that the shelters will be open for as long as needed.

The shelter at Knightdale High School is pet friendly.

Yeager said there will be a separate area for pets, where owners can sign them out. However, service animals are allowed to stay with their owner.

According to a press release, pets require vaccination records, and owners are responsible for the feeding, care, clean-up, and behavior of their pets.

Buses will depart the Outer Banks (Sarah Owens) Visitors Center located at 1 Visitors Center Circle in Manteo at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday and from Hatteras Elementary School located at 47500 Middle Ridge Trail in Buxton at 8 a.m. on Wednesday.

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