Editor's note: For complete coverage of Hurricane Florence, click here.
With weather conditions improving came an announcement from Onslow County that shelters will be opening.
Onslow County Manager, David Cotton said three shelter locations opened at 2 p.m. Friday: Dixon Middle School, Jacksonville Commons Middle, and Swansboro High School.
Opening the shelters comes after requests for service and rescue came in, including 70 people being evacuated from the Triangle Motor Inn after winds threatened the structural integrity of the building.
The initial impetus for opening a shelter was the evacuation of the Triangle Motor Inn, and the other shelters were opened because Slater’s team was getting more and more calls through the citizen phone bank - which can be reached at (910) 989-5027 - and the 911 center from residents who were afraid of the damage already caused to their homes.
The shelters have social workers, public health officials, certified nursing assistants and other healthcare providers stationed to offer help, according to Assistant County Manager Sherri Slater, whose staff will operate the shelters and supply food and human resources.
“They also spend a lot of time entering resource requests,” Slater said. “For instance we’ll have someone in the shelter who needs oxygen and their tank is running out.”
A lot of the time, Slater said, those going to the shelters do not have time to gather everything they need.
When her team found out that there was an emergency situation, the emergency services personnel who were strategically stationed across the county began to check in on nearby shelters to see if they were safe for people to be brought in. The team then reached out to law enforcement in the area to make sure the roadways were safe enough for travel.
“And then we started the deployment,” Slater said. “The way they were deployed to the shelters depended on where they were and which shelter they were going to.”
Some of the areas were safe, Slater said, while others required the help of the swift water rescue team.
Jacksonville Commons is the only shelter with the ability to provide for those with special needs, but Slater said they would not be turned away from any of the open shelters.
“We cannot guarantee care in a shelter, we guarantee shelter,” Slater said.
Besides the extra staff that provide support for those with special needs, Slater said Jacksonville Commons also has emergency supplies. It is the same with animal control.
“We don’t have enough staff resources to staff every shelter that way,” Slater said.
These shelters are being provided by the county, but the county partners with the American Red Cross, according to Charlotte Rodriguez, the public information officer for the Jacksonville-area Red Cross.
In a press release Friday afternoon the Red Cross wrote there are hundreds of thousands of people without power due to Hurricane Florence, which is "twice the size of Louisiana.
More than 20,000 people have sought shelter in more than 200 Red Cross and community shelters as of Thursday night, with 14,000 of them in North Carolina shelters, according to the release.