Ahead of heavy rains and wind brought by Hurricane Florence, Durham will open two evacuation shelters Wednesday for residents who don't feel comfortable staying in their homes.
One will open at the Bahama Ruritan Club (8202 Stagville Road) at noon Wednesday and the other at Hillside High School (3727 Fayetteville Road) at six p.m. Wednesday.
In a Tuesday afternoon press conference, emergency manager Jim Groves said these will be short-term facilities to house people who evacuate their homes ahead of the storm, which is expected to be felt in the Triangle as early as Thursday (check out the latest National Weather Service briefings from Raleigh here
City and county officials will monitor the severity of the storm and power outages in deciding when and where to open long-term shelters for people displaced by storm damage.
"This is mainly for folks who do not feel safe in their home — maybe a trailer, maybe rough construction, maybe you've flooded before and you know there's going to be an issue," Groves said. "These shelters are really just to get folks out of the hazard and give them a safe place to stay as the hurricane goes over us."
The two evacuation shelters together can hold upwards of about six hundred people. Groves says anyone who uses the evacuation shelters should bring a sleeping bag, pillows, glasses or contacts, medication and snacks. You can't bring a cooler, alcohol or drugs.
The Hillside shelter will be pet-friendly; bring vaccination records for pets, pet carriers and leashes.
Groves said the shelters will be closed if and when sustained wind speeds reach 40 mph (or 58 mph-gusts). This doesn't mean people will be kicked out — just that the city and county won't continue to advise people to go to those locations because it won't be safe for them to be on the roads.
At that point, emergency operations will also recommend that fire and police not be dispatched because responding to a call could be dangerous. Groves said residents should "be prepared to survive on your own without any assistance" for seventy-two hours. Depending on conditions, emergency responders may not be able to reach people immediately.
"Please don't depend on us for your safety," Groves said. "We will come running but it's really up to you to be accountable for your own safety."
As of Wednesday afternoon, Durham was expected to see six to ten inches of rain in the next seven days, with "extreme" risks of flash flooding, river flooding and power outages across Central North Carolina.
North Carolina is under a state of emergency
, and earlier today, the city of Durham and Durham County also signed emergency declarations, allowing shelters to increase their capacities and freeing up the flow of disaster recovery funds.
Local shelters are reaching out to homeless individuals in advance of the storm. Urban Ministries of Durham is adding twenty to thirty additional costs on top of the 180 it has now, says Drew Cummings, chief of staff for Durham County.
In addition, emergency management will be notifying people living in flood-prone areas beginning tomorrow morning to seek safety. If your property has flooded in the past, it will now, Groves said. You can find out whether your property is at risk of flooding through Alert Durham
He urged people not to call 911 for general information. Instead, you can call the county help line at 919-560-HELP, Durham One Call at 818-560-1200 or — better yet — sign up for emergency notifications
from Alert Durham. You'll get storm prep information, shelter information, National Weather Service alerts and recovery information after the storm.
For Duke Energy power outages, call 1-800-POWER-ON. For Piedmont Electric Membership Corportation, call 1-800-449-2667 or 1-800-222-3107. Groves said the city and county have identified priority locations in the event of outages, like shelters and hospitals, but plans for restoring power beyond that depend on the utility companies and conditions.
Deputy City Manager Bo Ferguson says "we have no reason to think this event would have any abnormal effect on the water supply." The city water system will continue to work without power, he said.
"It's designed to operate in these conditions," Ferguson said. "If water is coming out of your tap during this event, which it should be, the water is safe."
Ferguson said water from Durham reservoirs is being released to ensure they can handle heavy rainfall, and in an abundance of caution, those facilities will be monitored by staff.
Solid Waste is suspending all curbside pickup services Thursday and Friday due to Florence. Weather and road conditions permitting, curbside collections will resume on Monday, when trash and recycling not collected on Thursday and yard/bulk waste not collected on Friday will be picked up.
The city’s Waste Disposal and Recycling Center at 2115 E. Club Blvd., will close at four p.m. on Wednesday and re-open when conditions allow.
Groves urged residents to bring inside items on their porches or laws that "could turn into projectiles" and to check on friends, family and neighbors, particularly the elderly. The CDC offers hurricane guides in several languages.
If you or a loved one has access or functional needs — like lack of transportation; limited English language proficiency; health conditions; mobility, sensory, physical, intellectual, or cognitive limitations; or electrically dependent medical equipment — and may need assistance evacuating, you can fill out a form
and turn it in in person to Durham County Emergency Management.
Earlier Tuesday, Durham Public Schools announced
school will close early Thursday and remain closed Friday. Durham County courts will be closed Thursday and Friday and all proceedings rescheduled.
Update at 6 p.m. today, Durham emergency officials sent out a notice to 147 property owners whose properties have previously flooded. Those people had either registered for Alert Durham notifications, or their information was in the phone book. Here's what the notice said:
YOUR BUSINESS OR RESIDENCE HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED AS ONE THAT HAS PREVIOUSLY FLOODED, OR MAY BE AT RISK FOR FLOODING DUE TO PRECIPITATION FROM HURRICANE FLORENCE. PLEASE MAKE EVACUATION PLANS FOR YOURSELF AND PETS JUST IN CASE THE FLOOD WATERS RISE RAPIDLY. IF YOU NEED PREPAREDNESS INFORMATION, CALL 919 560-4357 OR VISIT WWW.ALERTDURHAM.COM.