CMS closes schools Thursday and Friday as Florence threatens Charlotte

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will close Thursday and Friday in anticipation of Hurricane Florence, the district announced Wednesday afternoon.

Makeup days have not been announced, but the scheduled days are Dec. 19, the first day of Christmas break, and Jan. 2, the final day.

Cabarrus County Schools will close Friday but remain on a normal schedule Thursday. Others in the region hadn’t announced closings as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the forecast called for heavy rain and flash flooding in the Charlotte area, likely starting Friday, with a possibility of power outages lasting several days.

Emergency officials have tapped East Meck, South Meck, North Meck, Olympic and Ardrey Kell high schools as hurricane shelters, which raises the prospect of students sharing their space with strangers. The shelters are primarily designed for people who have been evacuated from the coast, but officials said at a Wednesday news conference that local residents won’t be turned away.

“Hurricane Florence is dangerous, unpredictable and safety is the priority,” CMS said in a statement posted Wednesday afternoon. The statement noted that additional schools may be needed as shelters.

“With safety as a priority, the district considered security, maintenance, traffic and staffing needs at shelters as a part of the decision-making process. Very heavy traffic during evacuations is difficult to predict and could significantly impact and delay CMS transportation and other operations,” the statement said.

Within minutes of the announcement going up on Facebook, people began second-guessing.

“This is lazy and premature!! It is beautiful outside. This hurricane might not even hit us at this point!” one comment said.

“Better safe than sorry and FYI people they are needing some of the schools as shelter for those that are less fortunate,” said another.

As of midday Wednesday, more than 60 North Carolina districts, including Wake and Durham counties, and 30 charter schools had announced they will close Thursday and/or Friday. Most are in the eastern part of the state.

Track all McClatchy coverage of Florence across the Carolinas at www.charlotteobserver.com/topics/florence

Track all announced closings of North Carolina districts and charter schools at www.ncsuperintendent.com/closings

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms
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