County urges residents to seek shelter inland

Residents board up windows at a property in Atlantic Beach. (Cheryl Burke photo)

ATLANTIC BEACH — Don Grant, owner of the AB Ice Cream Shoppe in this beach community, said he planned to board up his business’ windows and then evacuate ahead of Hurricane Florence.

“I’m going to be proactive and head to stay with family in Greensboro,” Mr. Grant said as he picked up plywood Monday at Lowe’s Home Improvement in Morehead City.

He’s one of more than 1 million residents being asked to evacuate from the Carolina coast in advance of the storm.

Carteret County officials issued evacuation orders at 6 p.m. Monday, a move quickly followed by mandatory evacuation orders for many Bogue Banks towns.

Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Roy Cooper announced mandatory evacuation measures for all counties along North Carolina’s barrier islands, including Carteret.

“This storm is a monster,” he said during an afternoon press conference. “It’s big and it’s vicious. It is an extremely dangerous, life-threatening, historic hurricane.”

His words were quickly echoed by county emergency officials. In between answering constantly-ringing phones and coordinating transportation, County Manager Tommy Burns, flanked by County Chairman Mark Mansfield and Emergency Services Director Stephen Rea, urged residents to evacuate inland.

“We do not believe that this is a storm to mess around with. This storm has the potential to be catastrophic,” Mr. Burns said.

County officials have cautioned that rescue and aid could be delayed for some time immediately following the storm and asked residents not to consider sheltering in place and putting emergency crews at risk.

“It is not safe to shelter. We are advising folks to evacuate the county, and we’re hoping they’ll comply with that,” the county manager said.

Officials hope to complete evacuations by 8 p.m. Wednesday.

The county has arranged and is transporting individuals to an inland shelter at Knightdale High School, 100 Bryan Chalk Lane, Knightdale.

The shelter will allow residents to take their pets. Those in need of assistance with transport are urged to call 252-222-5841.

No shelters will be open in the county because of the mandatory evacuation order.

Monday evening, Emerald Isle and Atlantic Beach announced the high-rise bridges to the mainland would close beginning at 7 a.m. Thursday.

Atlantic Beach resident John Heinzman was boarding up his house Tuesday and said he too planned to evacuate the county.

“I’m going to Havelock because the county has a mandatory evacuation,” he told the News-Times.

County schools announced Monday there would be no school for students until further notice. County offices closed at noon Tuesday with essential personnel remaining behind to man the emergency services outpost.

In preparation for the storm, all three university-run marine research institutes in Carteret County began evacuating students and non-essential personnel Tuesday.

The marine research institutes are UNC Institute of Marine Sciences, the N.C. State University Center for Marine Sciences and Technology, both in Morehead City, and the Duke University Marine Lab on Pivers Island in Beaufort.

Duke University Marine Lab canceled classes as of noon Tuesday and announced non-essential personnel aren’t required to report to work Wednesday either.

DUML Director Dr. Andrew Read said all undergraduates and visiting students have been evacuated to Durham, where Duke University’s main campus is located.

Meanwhile, CMAST Director Dr. David Eggleston said his institute’s staff and faculty had been preparing for the hurricane since Sept. 7, bringing in equipment that could get damaged and finishing up what field work they could.

Finally, UNC-IMS Director Dr. Rick Luettich said they were sending everyone at their lab out of the forecast area for Florence, and they’d moved their research vessel to a safer location.

Staff of the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores closed the facility to the public and said on social media they were working to secure the building and safeguard the animals who reside there.

As of Tuesday afternoon, officials with the county animal shelter were bringing animals in and preparing them to ride out the storm at the facility.

Those evacuating are encouraged to check the N.C. Department of Transportation website to check the latest updates on routes and stay alert for inland flooding concerns.

Contact Mike Shutak at 252-726-7081, ext. 206; email mike@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @mikeccnt.

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

Contact Jackie Starkey at 252-726-7081, ext. 232; email jackie@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @jackieccnt.

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