'The stores are all out of everything': Suburbanites get ready for Hurricane Florence

 
 
Updated 9/12/2018 2:15 PM
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  • People line up outside a Home Depot for a new supply of generators and plywood in advance of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina, Wednesday. Florence exploded into a potentially catastrophic hurricane Monday as it closed in on North and South Carolina, carrying winds up to 140 mph and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week.

    People line up outside a Home Depot for a new supply of generators and plywood in advance of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina, Wednesday. Florence exploded into a potentially catastrophic hurricane Monday as it closed in on North and South Carolina, carrying winds up to 140 mph and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week. Associated Press

  • This GOES East satellite image taken Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. EDT, and provided by NOAA shows Hurricane Florence in the Atlantic Ocean as it threatens the U.S. East Coast, including Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina. Millions of Americans are preparing for what could be one of the most catastrophic hurricanes to hit the Eastern Seaboard in decades. Mandatory evacuations begin at noon Tuesday, for parts of the Carolinas and Virginia.

    This GOES East satellite image taken Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. EDT, and provided by NOAA shows Hurricane Florence in the Atlantic Ocean as it threatens the U.S. East Coast, including Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina. Millions of Americans are preparing for what could be one of the most catastrophic hurricanes to hit the Eastern Seaboard in decades. Mandatory evacuations begin at noon Tuesday, for parts of the Carolinas and Virginia. NOAA via AP

Diane Bates of Naperville was sitting on a beach on Pawleys Island in South Carolina with her son, husband, and daughter-in-law Saturday when suddenly, they all got alerts on their cellphones that the governors of North and South Carolina had declared an emergency: Hurricane Florence was coming.

It was a little weird for the Illinoisans. "You know it is still four or five days away," she said, unlike the tornado warnings of the Midwest.

People seemed to be heeding the governors' advice, she said, stocking up on food, water and gasoline, and leaving the coastal area. "The stores are all out of everything," Bates said.

Her son, Colin, attended college there, and married a North Carolina woman. They live in the Chapel Hill area.

Bates was scheduled to fly home Wednesday. Hers may be among the last of the flights out of Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Southwest Airlines has canceled flights in and out of that airport for Thursday and Friday. Driving east to the airport Wednesday morning, she saw westbound I-40 packed solid with people heading inland.

Parts of the Carolinas are predicted to get as much as 20 to 30 inches of rain starting Thursday, according to a National Hurricane Center bulletin issued at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

"It's scary stuff when you can't control it," Bates said.

Staying put

Former Schaumburg resident Robin Erickson, 59, is staying put in North Charleston, South Carolina.

"If you really look at the cone (anticipated path of the hurricane), there are so few places you could go," Erickson said.

Military families in her subdivision are the only ones who have left, because they were ordered to do so. Her husband works at an airport that is scheduled to be closed at midnight.

"You can kind of feel the tension in the air," Erickson said.

But, "We are having a party (with the rest of the neighbors on Friday)," Erickson said.

She said changing forecasts of the track of the hurricane, and how high winds and rain might be, factored in to her decision to stay.

This will be her third hurricane since she moved to North Charleston three years ago.

She has stocked up on batteries, nonperishable food and bottled water (and will fill her bathtub Thursday, just in case.) Just about everything but a Publix supermarket was closed as of early Wednesday afternoon, she said.

FEMA worker

Sarah Steiner of Buffalo Grove, with steel-toed boots at the ready, is heading toward the storm. She is a full-time worker for FEMA Corps, part of the federal AmeriCorps service program.

This is her first disaster; she started the 10-month program in June.

"I'm excited to help people get back on their feet after the disaster," Steiner said, as she and six teammates were driving in a van south from Washington, D.C. Wednesday afternoon, to Raleigh.

She spent the summer in training for several weeks, including Federal Emergency Management Agency basic training, then was put on "steady state" status, doing service projects. She has learned about hazard mitigation, flood plan management, and the National Flood Insurance Program.

The team brings their own cots and sleeping bags, and some food and water.

They will set up a field office before the hurricane strikes. After, she will be going door-to-door, checking for flood and other damage and informing people about financial aid for which they may be eligible.

The 22-year-old graduated from Loyola University with degrees in criminology and criminal justice. "I'm very interested in working with disaster assistance and recovery," she said.

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