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Coastal NC evacuees fleeing Hurricane Florence find shelter in Triangle schools

NC Governor Roy Cooper: ‘Get ready to hunker down’

Governor Roy Cooper tells North Carolinians to making final preparations for Hurricane Florence during a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 12, 2018.
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Governor Roy Cooper tells North Carolinians to making final preparations for Hurricane Florence during a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 12, 2018.

Hundreds of coastal North Carolina residents are staying at emergency shelters in three Wake County high schools after fleeing from the path of Hurricane Florence.

State and county emergency management officials opened a shelter Tuesday at Knightdale High School and Wednesday at Garner and Southeast Raleigh high schools. By Wednesday evening, Wake County was reporting that all three shelters were full.

“Storms are something I try to ride out,” said Clifton Midget, 61, who left Bayboro in Pamlico County to go to Knightdale High. “With this one, I had to do something else.”

The state is reporting that dozens of shelters are being opened around North Carolina to deal with the impact of Florence.

Watch the ABC11 weather forecast for the latest on the development of Hurricane Florence and its projected track into North Carolina.

The three shelters in Wake are primarily for coastal evacuees, but no one will be turned away, according to Dara Demi, a Wake County spokeswoman. She said additional shelters will be opened this week for local residents when Florence impacts the Triangle.

The Wake County school system’s decision to close schools on Thursday and Friday will allow more evacuees to be housed at the three shelters.

The three schools remained open for classes Wednesday as the shelters were being used. That decision to not close the schools drew complaints from some parents.

“I’m all for schools being Emergency Shelters but NOT while our children are on campus!!” Angie Bridges, a Garner High parent, tweeted to the Wake County school system on Tuesday. “If a school is open as an emergency shelter then classes need to be suspended!!! Superintendent needs to stop this!!!”

“I want to know where they are keeping the people who evacuate?” April Hunter, a Garner High parent, tweeted to the district Wednesday. “They better keep them AWAY from the kids.”

Donna Brown, 59, of Jacksonville, fled with her family to an emergency shelter at Knightdale High School to escape Hurricane Florence. Brown says she was too concerned about the storm to stay on the coast.

Wake tried to reassure parents that students would be safe.

“Extra security personnel is on campus during the evacuation period to maintain separation between our students and the evacuees,” the school district tweeted Tuesday. “We are honored to do our part to support North Carolina families in providing a safe and secure shelter during this hurricane.”

Amid the parental complains, Wake County Commissioner John Burns tweeted Wednesday that people should not call the school district to complain about the shelters because it’s the county that determines shelter operations and opening times.

Burns tweeted Tuesday to an upset parent that “your child will not be in any danger, and may in fact learn the importance of empathy and compassion” from having a shelter open on campus.

For Donna Brown, 59, of Jacksonville, it was a relief Wednesday to find a safe place for her and her family at Knightdale High.

“I just want everyone to be okay,” Brown said. “My family, my fellow citizens back in Onslow County, I just want all of us to be safe.”

NC Governor Roy Cooper outlines preparations for Hurricane Florence during a press briefing Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui
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