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Shelters offer refuge to evacuees

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Bill Hill, left, and Trey Wright work together to build a cot Wednesday at Nash Community College.

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Friday, September 6, 2019

Dare County resident Qua’Dasha Richardson has a place to sleep in Nash County, far from the potentially hardest-hitting impact of Hurricane Dorian.

“I’m glad to be out of harm’s way, yes, definitely,” Richardson, 28, of Manteo, told the Telegram at a Red Cross-supervised shelter open at Nash Community College.

Additionally, the NCC campus is housing teams of rescuers who are in position to respond to the hurricane’s aftermath.

Gov. Roy Cooper ordered a mandatory evacuation of the Tar Heel State’s barrier islands. Richardson was one of a group of evacuees from Dare County who arrived on the NCC campus late Wednesday afternoon and who are sleeping in cots.

“Well, when I first walked in, I was kind of like, feeling sad, but then I started adjusting and seeing that you can shower,” Richardson said of her first experience at the shelter. “They really have a nice locker-bathroom to shower in. They have nice food that they offered everyone.”

While most of her fellow Dare County residents were asleep under Red Cross-provided blankets, Richardson was reading a book.

Richardson said she is a direct support professional who cares for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

She was born in Newark, N.J., and grew up in the Richmond, Va., area.

She recently relocated to the picturesque Dare County seat, so evacuating in advance of a hurricane became a new experience for her. She received an alert on her cell phone to leave immediately.

“It was kind of last minute when Dare County Transportation came through,” she said.

She said she decided to climb aboard and get out because she and fellow evacuees do not know how bad the situation is going to be there.

“I was happy, once I got to the bus and everything on time — and I saw that other people were coming as well,” she said.

She estimated about 10 people were aboard for the trip. NCC is a nearly 2½ hour drive from Manteo.

One of the Red Cross volunteers at the shelter on Wednesday evening was the Rev. Tom Mowbray, 71, of Rocky Mount.

Mowbray is a former Stony Creek fire chief and a former longtime employee of Avid Laboratories, which is the forerunner of Pfizer in the Twin Counties area.

Mowbray also once worked in disaster relief for the Rev. Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse.

Mowbray started in June with the Red Cross as a volunteer for disaster response and Wednesday evening was his first assignment.

His wife was sleeping nearby in a cot.

Asked about what the evacuees are like, he told the Telegram, “They’re just like our neighbors around here.

“It’s like you’re really reaching out to your immediate community, even though they live on the Outer Banks,” he said. “And we’re just all North Carolinians together, one helping the other.”

As for being at a shelter and knowing the evacuees have a place to sleep, Mowbray said, “It’s really a rewarding experience to see the expression change on their faces.

“When they come in, it’s doubt, unknown, all this uncertainty,” Mowbray said. “And then when you can come up and begin to serve them, they begin to calm down, they loosen up, they begin to share. They come up and ask you for things — and they start to feel at home.”

Just outside the shelter were Winston-Salem Fire Department swift water rescuers with boats at the ready.

Marcus Draughn, 36, who is a team captain, was asked by the Telegram whether he believes he and his fellow rescuers are going to get the call and be sent someplace.

“You never know,” Draughn said. “Mother Nature is crazy.”

As for what will be going through his and his teammates’ minds if they are told to respond, Draughn said they probably are going to be going to areas they are unfamiliar with.

“Well, some of us are a little familiar with this region because we were here for Matthew in 2016,” he said in clarifying his response. “We worked from Rocky Mount back to Tarboro.”

He said numerous people were rescued, mostly in Edgecombe County.

Asked why he and his teammates do what they do, he said, “Because we love it.”

“It’s our passion. It’s what we signed up for,” he said.

Also staying at NCC is a group of Army National Guardsmen with a unit based in Morganton in the western part of the state. They are at the ready with trucks designed to be driven in high-water areas.

Staff Sgt. Michael Branch, 30, told the Telegram, “We don’t pray for hurricanes, but if it’s coming, we want to go help.

“And as far as our mindset, we’re just making sure that we’re ready, checking all of our gear, rechecking all of our gear,” Branch said.

Branch told of being part of a team deployed to the Wilmington area in response to Hurricane Florence last year and helping a man who was suffering from heart problems and was trapped due to his residence being surrounded by water.

“If we hadn’t done that, he may not be here,” Branch said of getting the man to the hospital.

As for his feelings afterward, he said, “I honestly really can’t put it in words.

“It’s amazing to go out and do what we do,” he said. “This is why we raised our right hand, to serve this state and country.”

Red Cross regional spokeswoman Cally Edwards, in an email to the Telegram, advised people looking for a shelter in the eastern part of the state to go online to www.redcross.org/shelter, check the Red Cross emergency app via cell phone or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

Edwards advised anyone who plans to stay in a Red Cross shelter to bring prescription medications, extra clothing, pillows, blankets, hygiene supplies, important documents and other comfort items.

She also advised they include any special items for children, such as diapers, formula and toys, and also include durable medical equipment or assistive technology if applicable.

People needing more information about the hurricane also may go to https://www.ncdps.gov/dorian2019.

To keep track of the hurricane’s path, go https://spaghettimodels.com.

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