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Florence Forces Thousands Of North Carolinians Into Shelters


The remnants of Hurricane Florence are dumping rain on the Southeast, and those who heeded calls to evacuate their homes now wait to see when they can return. From member station WUNC, Rusty Jacobs reports.

RUSTY JACOBS, BYLINE: For the second time in four days, Gladys Meadows had to pack up and go. First, she fled the storm on Wednesday night when she left her Jones County home down east to take shelter at the National Guard armory in Fayetteville. The threat of flooding there forced the closing of that facility. So on Saturday night, Meadows and others boarded a bus that took them to this modern building at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

GLADYS MEADOWS: We cry. But in the end, God always has a plan. And if you trust in him and believe in him, you know you can go through anything - anything.

JACOBS: Meadows sits in the lobby of the UNC Friday Center with an American Red Cross blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The Friday Center normally hosts conferences and lectures. Now kids movies are showing in the auditorium, and the classrooms have been turned into dormitories. Many people mill about chatting and watching the latest weather reports on wall-mounted, flat-screen TVs. Bonnie Knight stands with her husband, Rocky, and talks with people they have met at the shelter. Bonnie and Rocky are homeless. They were in a tent encampment in Hillsborough in Orange County before being evacuated because of the coming storm. When asked how she's handling this latest ordeal with such grace, Knight struggles to hold back tears.

BONNIE KNIGHT: It's hard, but we manage.

JACOBS: The Friday Center is her third shelter since the storm hit North Carolina. Governor Roy Cooper spoke with people at the Chapel Hill facility during a Sunday visit.

ROY COOPER: Have you heard from home yet? Do you know what's...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: It's flooded out in my...

COOPER: I'm so, so sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: ...Neighborhood. They're stranded.

COOPER: I'm so very sorry. We're going to help all we can, OK? You hang in there, all right?

JACOBS: Cooper could provide comfort but not a lot of answers about when people might return to their homes.

COOPER: We're still rescuing people in a lot of areas where these people have come from. So right now, it's - we're just in rescue mode and making sure that people are safe.

JACOBS: And Governor Cooper says people are going to have to be here for a while. For NPR News, I'm Rusty Jacobs in Chapel Hill, N.C.


Rusty Jacobs is a politics reporter for WUNC. Rusty previously worked at WUNC as a reporter and substitute host from 2001 until 2007 and now returns after a nine-year absence during which he went to law school at Carolina and then worked as an Assistant District Attorney in Wake County.