The threat of significant storm damage to North Carolina is very real, Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday afternoon as Hurricane Dorian gets closer to the Carolinas.
“This storm is strong and it’s relentless. We must be ready,” Cooper said at a news briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center.
He urged residents and visitors to take evacuation orders and the storm seriously.
“Start moving well before the storm in order to get to safety. Do not try to ride it out,” Cooper said. He said that riding out the storm puts your life at risk and the lives of first responders who may have to rescue you.
Tuesday night, the White House announced that the federal government had granted the request for a federal disaster declaration. Cooper had requested a federal emergency declaration for the state on Monday, which would make federal response and recovery aid available to North Carolina for hurricane preparation and relief.
Two large shelters will open soon. One in Durham will open Tuesday at 6 p.m. and one in Clayton for people with specialized medical needs will open on Wednesday.
Cooper said a lesson learned from Hurricane Florence last year is to open “mega shelters” in the middle of the state for mass evacuations because of local shelters overflowing. The Durham one will be at Northgate Mall, 1058 W. Club Blvd., in the old Sears building.
A potential additional mega shelter at Northgate would be in the old Macy’s department store. The UNC Friday Center is another possible mega shelter, he said.
“I think we have a lot of willing partners out there, people will to help us, ready to shelter people if necessary,” Cooper said.
Department of Public Safety Director of Emergency Management Michael Sprayberry said North Carolinians should complete their storm preparations by Wednesday.
“We know that rain, storm surge and winds will all be a significant threat for this event, particularly east of I-95 with the greatest hazards being along our coastline. The greatest impacts will be felt Thursday and Friday but we can feel the impacts as early as [Wednesday],” Sprayberry said.
Three hundred National Guard soldiers have been activated to help with storm response, and water rescue teams deployed on Tuesday to staging areas near the coast.
“There is still time for you to get prepared, but do not wait,” the governor said. Cooper said people should have emergency kits for themselves, families and pets that will last for several days.
Earlier on Tuesday, Cooper issued an executive order saying that the state is under an “imminent threat” from the hurricane that is expected to pass or make landfall “on or about” Wednesday evening. He issued a mandatory state evacuation for all barrier islands on the North Carolina coast from the Virginia line to the South Carolina line effective at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Cooper said for residents to follow any earlier evacuation orders from local authorities, too.