NC begins to welcome those displaced by Hurricane Irma's destruction
North Carolina is ready to accept Hurricane Irma evacuees heading north from Florida, Georgia and South Carolina after opening five new Red Cross shelters across the state this weekend.
Shelters in Gaston County, Henderson County, Johnston County and Mecklenburg County opened on Saturday and an additional Guilford County shelter in Greensboro opened Sunday.
“The state asked a number of jurisdictions to open up shelters that were right along the highway for evacuees coming out of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, and they identified the plan based on the major arteries that come out of those locations,” said Don Campbell, emergency management division director for Guilford County.
The newest shelter in Greensboro is capable of hosting 500 evacuees.
Greensboro City Council member Sharon Hightower said the city recently purchased the building, which is close to the highway, police department and grocery stores.
“It’s an ideal location to use as a shelter,” she said. “I know the people coming in will feel safe and welcome as they have a place to go from the storm.”
Mary Donny, regional disaster program director for the Red Cross, said the shelters are fully prepared to help shelter evacuees.
Donny said the shelters will provide clothing, toiletries, meals and water, along with basic health care services.
“We generally have a nurse on hand or access to a nurse and health services," she said. "And depending on the event, we always have access to provide mental health support and spiritual services."
The Red Cross has five more shelters on stand-by should they become necessary to accommodate evacuees.
"We wanted to be ready," she said. "We’ve been partnering with North Carolina Emergency Management, the state of North Carolina and of course the counties in which the shelters are located.”
Director of North Carolina Emergency Management Mike Sprayberry said the state is ready to help.
“Rest areas have been pretty full, so we want to provide additional places where people can go," he said. "We have cots and blankets and things like that."
The Greensboro shelter, as well as the four other shelters, will remain open until evacuees are able to return to their homes.
If students want to participate in Red Cross aid, they can donate money or volunteer hours at redcross.org. UNC-Chapel Hill has a UNC Red Cross Club, a student organization that provides Red Cross services to the University and community. Students interested in contributing to the club’s efforts can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit its Facebook page.
“With the storm just now hitting Georgia, I would anticipate the shelters probably remain open until Wednesday morning, but that’s still flexible depending on the needs of the evacuees,” Campbell said.
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