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Thousands of North Carolina storm evacuees are physically safe from the effects of Hurricane Florence, but their hearts and minds are focused on what’s happening to their homes and possessions under assault on the coast.
Many coastal residents heeded the evacuation orders and fled in advance of the arrival of Florence, with some ending up in the more than 200 emergency shelters set up statewide. At the emergency shelter at Garner High School, evacuees kept their smartphones and laptops on as they watched news reports of the catastrophic storm surges and torrential rains hitting their coastal communities.
“It’s just very disturbing,” said Robert Snow, 48, of Morehead City, who is staying at the Garner shelter. “It’s just all gone.”
About 300 people, most evacuees from the coast, were at the shelter Friday.
Morehead City was subjected Thursday night to nonstop heavy wind and relentless rain, The News & Observer reported. The National Weather Service reported that Florence had dropped 13.81 inches of rain in Morehead City as of 10 a.m. Friday with more heavy rain still falling.
Conditions in Wilmington were on the minds of a number of New Hanover County residents who are staying at the Garner High shelter.
“Downtown Wilmington was getting a beating,” said Angela Brown, 62, of Wilmington. “Boy.”
Brown and her 21-year-old daughter Monica Walker aren’t sure what they’ll find when they eventually return to their apartment. They’re worried about both natural and human dangers to their possessions.
“I just pray and hope that all our stuff is all right,” Brown said. “People break into houses and steal stuff.”
Monica Scott, 34, of Wilmington, says she’s keeping her fingers crossed that her home is fine. Now she’s sitting in a high school more than 120 miles away not knowing what’s happening in Wilmington.
“I’m just trying to keep my sanity,” she said. “It’s a new experience.”
Some coastal evacuees say they’re turning to their faith to get them through this stressful situation.
“God is in charge,” said Rosalind Kelly, 65, of Jacksonville. “God gives jobs to people to plan for us. If I let them do their jobs and not worry then it’s all going to work out.”
For many evacuees at Garner High, Friday marks their third day at the shelter. They sleep on cots in the gymnasiums, have designated “lunch periods” and are told when it’s quiet time at night.
“It’s like we’re in kindergarten,” Brown said.
Shelter residents like Brown have gone through several hurricanes in the past. But Florence is the first one for Joshua Jones, 42, of Wilmington, who said he had no intention of sitting out the storm on the coast.
“I’m from (New) Jersey,” Jones said. “I’m used to blizzards and heavy rains, never a hurricane. I was taking no chances.”
It’s unclear when shelter evacuees will be able to return to their homes. Wake County has opened shelters at six high schools with three primarily for coastal residents.
“We could be here for another week,” said Snow, the Morehead City evacuee. “But I’d rather be here than in that water because everything is underwater.”