Millions on the US coast prepare as monster storm approaches
As Hurricane Florence approaches the Southeastern U.S. coast, millions of people in the path of are frantically preparing for the monster storm. Residents in states from Virginia to Georgia — especially those who live in flood-prone areas or on the coast — must decide whether to stay or go.
For some, the choice was easy. For others, the choice was less clear. Here are some snapshots of a region awaiting the hurricane:
A FINAL GLASS OF WINE
Hours before a mandatory evacuation took effect, Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, resident Phoebe Tesh paused between loading her car to have a glass of wine on the steps of the house where she and her husband rent an apartment.
“We just love it down here so much we want to spend as time as we can,” she said.
Tesh, who works in IT for UNC-Wilmington, said she and her husband have been making trips back and forth to carry valuables to her parents’ house on the mainland in Wilmington, where they are going to ride out the storm.
“We started out with anything that cost over $200. Now we’re down to anything over $30,” she said, waving toward an SUV crammed with plastic bins and various items, including a block of chef’s knives. “Next time we need a box truck.”
She said she and her husband, a professor at UNC-W, loved the beach so much they sold a house on the mainland to be full-time renters since 2013.
She said they typically evacuate for major storms, and even neighbors who tend to ride our hurricanes are leaving.
“We don’t know of anyone who’s staying for the storm,” she said.
COMING OUT OF RETIREMENT TO HELP
Looking at a fleet of utility trucks staged at a parking lot near Charlotte Motor Speedway on Wednesday, retired utility worker Paul Anderson confessed that helping out with recovery efforts from Hurricane Florence was a rush. He admits the pay is good, but there’s another factor that moves him.
“It’s adrenaline,” said Anderson, 59, of Lake City, Florida. “As soon as I get the call to go to work, I’m a changed man. My wife will tell you that. It makes you feel good to go help people. Plus, you get paid.”
Anderson didn’t hesitate when he was asked to work, gathering people from Florida and Alabama to head to the Wilmington, North Carolina, area. At least two dozen trucks were parked near the speedway, and some workers were gathered at a trailer loading the truck with various pieces of equipment.
“When (my boss) asked me if I’d go down to the coast, I said yeah. And he said ‘You know what you’re getting into, don’t you?’ and I said, ‘That’s where I want to be. I want to be right in the middle of it.'”
Finally, Anderson admitted to one fear.
“I’m scared of the water,” he said. “I’m not scared of the wind. (Hurricane) Irma had a lot of wind. You don’t want to be out in it but you can protect yourself from that. This water thing, we’ve never had to face that. ”
LEARNING FROM PAST EXPERIENCE
Seth Bazemore lives in one of the most flood-prone neighborhoods in Norfolk, Virginia: A sliver of land known as Willoughby Spit that juts out into Chesapeake Bay like a thumb.
Previous hurricanes have made him a survivor.
On Wednesday, his brick house was lined with sandbags. Six bilge pumps sat inside on the ground floor, ready to push out the heavy rains and possible flood surge that the outer bands of Hurricane Florence are forecast to deliver.
“It looks like a ship moored to a pier,” said the 62-year-old engineering manager at Newport News Shipbuilding, a nearby shipyard the builds aircraft carriers and submarines for the U.S. Navy.
“I’ve learned from past experience,” he said. “But believe you me, if I think it’ll be worse and more than my setup can handle, we’re out of here.”
Bazemore was feeling some relief Wednesday. The forecast showed that Florence may strike the East Coast even further south in the Carolinas and bring less rain and wind to Virginia.
EVACUATING WITH A NEWBORN
Colin Richards was among the military personnel leaving coastal Virginia and North Carolina ahead of Hurricane Florence. Many of the region’s ships had already headed out to sea.
The 28-year-old mostly was concerned for his daughter, who is one month and two days old.
“It’s very simple,” he said Wednesday morning. “We don’t want to live without power with a newborn.”
Richards is a U.S. Navy diver based at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach. He and his wife, Louilyn, live in the Norfolk neighborhood of Oceanview, which sits on the southern edge of the Chesapeake Bay.
Florence is projected to strike the Carolinas. But heavy rains, winds and flooding are expected in Virginia.
“It’s just not worth the risk,” Richards said. “We’ve lost power frequently in the past.”
The family planned to head to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Richards is from. He said many of his neighbors in Norfolk planned to wait out the storm with generators.