Time to evacuate and hunker down: NC coast preps for Florence

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— As mandatory evacuations are in place for Beaufort, Dare, Pamlico and Tyrrell county beaches (Atlantic, Indian, Emerald Isle, Pine Knoll Shores, Ocracoke, Carolina, Kure, Wrightsville, Topsail, Currituck Outer Banks, Oak Island and Holden), most people are heeding the warning and getting out in advance of Hurricane Florence.

During a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Roy Cooper said there are 750,000 to 1 million people under evacuation orders.

“If you aren’t under evacuation orders, now’s the time to finish preparations and get ready to hunker down,” Cooper said. “We expect this storm to be with us for days.”

At least 50 shelters are already open across the state, and officials estimate there were already about 5,000 people staying in the shelters, although that number fluctuates.

“We’re on the wrong side of the storm, where most of the damage is done,” Cooper said.

Computer models show Florence’s storm surge will flood tens of thousands of homes and businesses.

According to the state Department of Transportation, more than 2,100 people and 1,074 vehicles had been evacuated from Ocracoke Island, Cedar Island and Swan Quarter.

As some enjoyed the calm before the storm in Wilmington on Wednesday, Duke Energy crews from Raleigh began arriving at the coast.

“This is going to be the largest deployment in the Carolinas, 20,000 from Carolina, Florida and Texas and 1.3 million will lost power during this event,” Duke Energy spokesperson Jeff Brooks said.

DOT crews and the State Highway Patrol were quickly clearing accidents, stranded drivers and abandoned vehicles off major highways near the coast so they don’t hinder the evacuation effort.

DOT officials said contractors are on standby to respond to storm-related tasks and have staged equipment in different areas to have supplies available when cleanup and recovery begins.

Some Wilmington residents, including Linda Callihaan, who lived through several storms over the last 40 years, weren’t worried about the impending hurricane.

“It’s kind of scary, but now that it’s dropped to a Category 3, it’s really not bothering me that much,” she said.

David Cascaddea said he has lived in Wilmington for 35 years and the storm clouds rolling in won’t chase him away.

“Water, generators, all the people here, we have everything we need,” he said.