Local officials, Red Cross convert schools into shelters for evacuees

Local officials are working to make sure evacuees fleeing the coast ahead of Hurricane Florence have safe places to stay. Five Charlotte high schools will be converted to shelters over the next few days.

Beds, food and supplies are filling the gyms across Mecklenburg County in anticipation for those looking leaving the NC coast ahead of the Category 3 storm. 

“This is not first time we are opening a shelter, however we are opening more this time then we normally would,” chief Robert Graham with Charlotte Mecklenburg Emergency Management said. 

Five high schools in all, Olympic, Ardrey Kell, East, North and South Meck high schools have all transformed into shelters. 

“We didn’t just pick this out of a hat. We go through and actually have a shelter inspection throughout the year to make sure the shelters have running water, shower facilities, bathrooms electric, generators back up and things like that because if we're going to be here for a few days, we want to make sure there are no surprises,” said Red Cross Regional Communications Officer Jerri Jameson.  

The shelters will provide three meals a day, all-day snacks and drinks. Each shelter will sleep around 150 people, and cats and dogs are welcome. 

“We are not going to turn anyone away however at this time the shelters are primarily open for people evacuating the coast and those are the people that are going to need sheltering,” Jameson said. 

While the path of Florence changes almost hourly, the Red Cross says it will be ready to tackle whatever the storm blows its way. 

“When we have five million people under a mandatory evacuation orders and Charlotte seems to be the cusp of 77 and 85 where people will be coming out. With the storm’s path still uncertain people may choose to go elsewhere but we are prepared here in the Charlotte Mecklenburg area, but other areas as needed,” said Jameson.