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Police officers took a pre-emptive step Wednesday by going door-to-door to encourage Wilson’s most vulnerable residents to evacuate ahead of the rain and winds promised by Hurricane Florence.
“We started this morning going to flood-prone areas to try to get some residents evacuated now,” said Capt. Eric Smith during a local gathering of first responders. “We’re trying to get as much of that done ahead of the storm instead of wading into the water and carrying folks out.”
Staff at the Wilson Crisis Center also have been hard at work ensuring Wilson residents are planning ahead in case the more than a foot of rain forecast for the area causes flooding, power outages and other problems that would leave residents on their own for an indeterminate period of time. Executive Director Nancy Sallenger said she and her staff have fielded calls since last week, including 187 from midnight to noon Tuesday and 88 from noon to 4 p.m.
“We’ve gotten calls all night and all day with many people calling because they want reassurance,” she said. “They want to know someone is there, so we are trying very hard to keep them calm and share some resources and referrals.”
HOMELESS AND HUNGRY
One important focus is getting homeless folks out of cars and off the streets into someplace safe, so Sallenger said staff is completing assessments with each and waiting on the storm.
“It might be a lot of people and it might be lower, so I can’t say how many we may house in hotels, but we are focused on getting people off the streets and into safety,” Sallenger said.
Community Soup Kitchen Director Neill Connor said during the Wednesday meal, staff will notify clients to be on the lookout for closures Thursday and Friday, adding a sign will be posted on the door, too.
“If the roads are passable and we have power, we’re going to be open Thursday and Friday,” said Linda Connor. “If we can’t get down Nash Street because of trees or we don’t have power, we won’t be open.”
Wilson’s emergency shelter will open at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Fike High School. This is the only shelter that will be able to accept pets, but space is limited. The school is also equipped with a generator, county officials said.
Officials say the shelter should be a last resort and are urging residents to plan ahead, evacuate if possible and shelter in place in the case of outages barring life-threatening conditions.
While the county doesn’t issue evacuation orders, people who live in low-lying areas with a history of flooding should get out ahead of the storm, Wilson Emergency Management Director Gordon Deno told county commissioners Monday. He said officials encourage people who are in those areas to prepare and go to a friend’s or relative’s home instead of the shelter.
“Life is much better if you can be with friends or family,” he added.
He said they don’t want people driving in hurricane-force wind and rains.
“If people do have to evacuate, we hope people will come to the shelter in a timely manner,” he said.
There are eight other shelters in the area opening at 6 p.m. today including: Nash Central High School, Southern Nash High School, D.S. Johnson Elementary School, North Edgecombe High School, Tarboro High School, Martin Millennium Academy and G.W. Carver Elementary School. Rocky Mount also announced a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. starting Thursday for all non-emergency personnel.
According to the state of emergency proclamation, all people within the curfew area shall observe the curfew by “remaining in their homes, offices or places of business during the curfew hours designated by the mayor, or until such earlier time as the curfew hereby imposed shall be terminated.” No curfew has been announced in Wilson.
Sallenger said the Wilson Crisis Center resource line at 252-237-5156 will be manned 24/7 throughout the duration of the storm.
“Any information people need, we will find out as quick as possible for them,” she said.
Some of the calls have been from relatives looking for help relocating disabled or relatives with medical issues ahead of the storm.
“They can call us and we’ll try to find out what motels and hotels are available,” Sallenger said. “We can help with where they need to go or they can wait until the shelter opens at Fike. If someone is on oxygen or has medical needs, they can explain it to us and we’ll help make calls, but every situation is different and we’ll do what we need to make sure everyone is safe.”
Fielding calls isn’t the only interaction staff has with folks throughout this disaster. Sallenger said more than 950 calls are made every day to area seniors and handicapped folks to check in and remind them to take their medications. She said this daily routine will not be broken and residents will continue to be checked on throughout Hurricane Florence.