Wake County is planning to open two more emergency shelters this morning ahead of Florence’s arrival after several busloads of evacuated coastal residents arrived unexpectedly Wednesday night.
Hurricane Florence has been downgraded to a category 2 storm and is expected to make landfall later tonight or early Friday morning, pummeling the coast with storm surges, torrential rain, and flooding before shifting south.
A million North Carolina residents along the shore have been asked to evacuate. Busses of evacuees from Onslow and New Hanover Counties showed up in Wake looking for shelter at about 5:00 p.m. Wednesday; however, the county’s three operating shelters—Knightdale, Garner Magnet, and Southeast Raleigh high schools—were already nearing capacity with 935 people, says county spokeswoman Alice Avery. The shelters have a combined capacity of 1,035 people, and only 117 beds remained as of Wednesday morning, Avery says.
“You can’t put more people in the shelters than you have cots for,” Avery says. "The evacuating counties did notify us they were coming, but due to the nature of the storm and other factors—traffic, number of people, when they left, stops they made, etc.—we didn't know at what exact moment they were going to show up."
County commissioner Sig Hutchinson said some of the evacuees were diverted to Winston-Salem. In addition, the city of Raleigh has warned twenty-six thousand residents they may be in danger of flooding.
“We cannot be full when this storm hits that we cannot take Wake County residents,” Hutchinson says.
Avery says the county will announce the location of the two new shelters sometime this morning, once supplies and staff have been secured.
Meanwhile, just fifty-seven people had sought shelter by Thursday night at a pet-friendly shelter at Hillside High School in Durham, according Durham Emergency Management, leaving 1,300 beds available. Another pre-storm Durham shelter, at the Bahama Ruritan Club, which is not taking pets, had all 340 beds available Thursday night.
UPDATE: Wake County will open three additional shelters this afternoon at Heritage High School. Middle Creek High School and Sanderson High School.