More shelters in North Carolina will open on Thursday, with 56 currently open in South Carolina, as each state prepares for Hurricane Florence to strike their coastal regions.
Florence’s current trajectory, as of 5 a.m. EDT on Thursday, had the storm reaching landfall that evening on North and South Carolina’s shared border, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The storm was projected to die down and become a tropical storm, with winds still potentially as high as 74 miles per hour, and would become a tropical depression as it stretched into Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee, West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Storm Surges Are the Danger
Even though Florence was downgraded from a Category 4 to a Category 2 storm, officials warned that storm surges of between 2 and 13 feet high and stretching well inland remained extremely dangerous. Major flooding is also expected as rain continues well into the weekend.
The storm is roughly 205 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, with winds of 110 miles per hour and moving along the Atlantic Ocean northwest at 15 miles per hour.
Federal Emergency Management Agency administration Brock Long and other officials warned residents Thursday morning to evacuate now and that time was running out for them to leave. Long also stressed the severity and danger of storm surges and not to take Florence’s downgraded speed as a sign the storm was weakening.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told reporters Thursday that FEMA had set up supplies at staging areas, and that President Donald Trump had told him the federal government would provide whatever the state needed. Cooper said he also spoke to Cabinet members.
South Carolina designated much of its northeast coastal area as a mandatory evacuation zone, with Charleston considered one of the most dangerous areas in the storm’s path. Edisto Beach in Jasper County, Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester, Georgetown, and Horry are all under evacuation orders.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said Thursday afternoon that 421,000 people had been evacuated from the danger zones, and urged anyone left to leave as soon as possible. He also advised residents to have backup cellphone batteries or be somewhere with a lot of power, while also suggesting residents be prepared to perhaps be without power for some time.
Officials said Thursday that South Carolina had 61 total shelters, with 49 for the general population and 12 special medical need shelters. Four of the general shelters were pet-friendly.
As of Thursday afternoon, South Carolina had 4,350 people in shelters around the state and still had more than 31,000 spots in shelters available to residents.
All North Carolina’s barrier islands were under mandatory evacuation orders by state officials, as was Craven, Pamlico, Hyde, Tyrell and Currituck counties.
Evacuations began as early as Tuesday in both states, with reportedly as many as 1.7 million people moving away from the coast. The American Red Cross had accepted more than 1,600 people on Tuesday evening at 36 community shelters across the Carolinas.
A full map with addresses for each Red Cross shelter in the Carolinas and Virginia, where Florence was also expected to hit, can be found here.
North and South Carolina officials warned residents to prepare and evacuate as soon as possible, with shelters opening across both states on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday morning and afternoon, several North Carolina counties will open between one and three new shelters, although exact locations for shelters in Granville, Guilford and Lenoir counties have not yet been named, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety’s official site.
The South Carolina Emergency Management Department updated the total number of shelters open to 56 Thursday morning. A full list with locations for each shelter in South Carolina can be found here.
Beer-maker Anheuser-Busch announced Wednesday it would provide more than 300,000 cans of emergency drinking water to North and South Carolina and Virginia. The cans will be sent from a brewery in Georgia to local wholesalers, the Red Cross and the South Carolina National Guard, who will then pass them on to those in need, according to the company.