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Hurricane Florence: Supplies run out in North Carolina as emergency officials say storm will deliver 'Mike Tyson punch'

Residents remain calm even as petrol and generators became scarce

Clark Mindock
Fayetteville, North Carolina
Thursday 13 September 2018 17:36 BST
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Hurricane Florence: New satellite video shows storm raging as it heads toward US east coast

Residents on the US eastern seaboard scrambled to evacuate as government officials warned that Hurricane Florence would deliver a “Mike Tyson punch” to the Carolinas.

With up to 1.7 million people under mandatory evacuation orders in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, Donald Trump urged people to take seriously the threat of what may be the biggest storm to hit the US’s East Coast in decades. “Get out of its way,” he said at the White House. “Don’t play games with it. It’s a big one.”

With the potentially deadly conditions of Florence around 500 miles away from land, North Carolina residents who decided to stay at home made last minute preparations by stocking up on dwindling emergency supplies.

“My message is clear: disaster is at the doorstep and is coming in,” North Carolina governor Roy Cooper said on Wednesday morning. “The waves and the wind this storm may bring is nothing like you’ve ever seen. Even if you’ve ridden out storms before, this one is different. Don’t bet your life on riding out a monster.”

At the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) in Washington, officials were asked about a report that revealed the Trump administration had shifted nearly $10m (£7.7m) from Fema to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But Jeff Byard, associate administrator for the Office of Response and Recovery, said they had all the resources required.

He said: “This is not going to be a glancing blow. It’s going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast.”

Less than 24 hours before the first signs of the severe winds were expected, people flocked to hardware and food shops to stock up on supplies they hope will help them and their families survive through the worst of the storm, which has shifting between being a category 3 and 4 storm. It was downgraded to category 2 at 11pm on Wednesday night (local time), but forecasters said it would still bring winds of 110mph and a life-threatening storm surge.

Teacher Melissa Powell managed to get the last generator at Fayetteville Home Depot, where a line of cars had formed in the hope of picking up one of the last few on sale in the event of power loss to the region.

“We got flooded with Hurricane Matthew. It was bad — we watched all the floodwater build. It was scary,” said Ms Powell, who is evacuating to Georgia but bought the generator for her husband, who is staying to help the elderly at their church.

As the hurricane barrelled towards the United States this week, governors, mayors, and county leadership in states from South Carolina up to Maryland, began issuing evacuation orders and declaring states of emergency.

More than 1.7 million people have been ordered to evacuate, and broader emergency efforts have included moving prisoners from detention centres considered at risk, and keeping an eye on Superfund sites in the area that could be hit by the storm and spread dangerous chemicals.

Fema has sent officials to embed with state responding offices to ensure that federal efforts to help are coordinated and effective. Mr Trump, after a series of increasingly stern statements on the storm, declared a state of emergency in North Carolina and Virginia, freeing up federal funds to help in the storm preparation efforts.

“Hurricane Florence is looking even bigger than anticipated,” Mr Trump tweeted on Wednesday. “It will be arriving soon. Fema, First Responders and Law Enforcement are supplied and ready. Be safe!’

But, in spite of the warnings that flooding could wash through North Carolina, posing dangerous risk to life and property, many seem unconcerned.

Donald Trump on Hurricane Florence: 'We'll handle it. We're ready'

“Basically this is going to be – I just can’t describe it,” Kevin Lynn, of Fayetteville, said.

Mr Lynn said that Hurricane Matthew felled trees and flooded his community, leading to lost power and long commutes home. This time he hopes he learned the lesson.

“You go, OK – this time we’re prepared. This year we learned from previous hurricanes,” Mr Lynn said. “I’m not worried at all... if it’s flooded, people need to stay home. It’s not worth risking your life.”

Sergeant Cisco Ramirez, who is stationed at Fort Bragg, had also picked up a generator on Wednesday and said he has no worries about the coming storm. He, his wife, and his two children have fortified their house with sandbags, and stocked up on essentials.

“I’ve been through worse I’m not worried about it,” Mr Ramirez said. “It’s just a little rain. Maybe an excessive amount”.

But for those further towards the coast, the storm’s impact meant packing up and heading inland. This storm might prove too much to survive if they stay too close to the shores.

Shirley Reber, a retired marriage and family therapist from Wrightsville, North Carolina, heeded the warning from state officials and evacuated her coastal community on Tuesday, and said she made the trip to Fayetteville on back roads with her three cats in tow.

“If it’s a category 2 then I’ll stay. 3, it’s like missiles. 4, it’s Katrina,” she said, referring to the storm that hit New Orleans in 2005 and left more than 1,800 people dead. “It’s gonna be major, this one is.”

She added: “We’ll see what I have to go home to – if anything.”

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