They Refused to Evacuate for Hurricane Florence. Now Hundreds Are Trapped and Calling for Help


September 14, 2018
Jon Wright considers himself one of the lucky residents of Wilmington, N.C.—so far.
The 63-year-old former firefighter says he was able to sleep through the torrential rain and thrashing winds when then-Hurricane Florence made landfall early Friday morning, only waking up to texts he received at 7 a.m. from friends checking up on him. He was pleased to get the texts, a sign that he still had cell phone reception, and decided to go rev up his generator that is now powering his refrigerator and his satellite TV, which he’s spent a portion of Friday watching.
“The worst of the storm is over,” Wright tells TIME.
“I’ve been through hurricanes before,” he says. “Preparation is key. As we speak, my wife is battening down everything we can, boarding the windows. You can never predict what a hurricane is going to do but I’m just not going to run away from this.”
Wright is far from the only resident in the Carolinas that chose to weather Hurricane Florence, which has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, though many who chose to stay are starting to reconsider their decision of sticking around for what North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper called a “1,000-year event.” Officials in South Carolina’s Craven County say conditions are much worse than some residents expected, with nearly 500 people calling the local emergency services hotline asking for help. Many of the calls are from residents who are trapped in their homes, some of whom reported floodwater rising up to the second floor.
“We’re helping out a lot of people today,” says Craven County Emergency Services spokesperson Amber Parker. “Some of the people who are calling had pre-existing medical issues that needed assistance and some calls are from people who were trapped in the attic of their homes. We have also gotten calls from family members worried about relatives they can’t reach.”
And while Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm Friday afternoon, meteorologists predict heavy rain—up to 2 feet of rain when all is said and done—will continue into the weekend. The National Hurricane Center said the area should also expect “life-threatening” storm surges, hurricane-strength wind gusts and “catastrophic” fresh water flooding as Hurricane Florence slowly churns inland.
Accuweather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski said the worst is far from over. The coming storm surges and heavy rains will cause severe flooding that may submerge parts of the Carolinas in up to 40 inches of rain.
“More people die from storm surge than any proponent of hurricanes,” Kottlowski tells TIME. “Florence may be weakening but will have a large storm surge.”
Prior to Hurricane Florence’s landfall, more than 1.7 million were ordered to evacuate the coast. Authorities say at least 20,000 people have evacuated their homes and sought refuge in shelters throughout North Carolina. But there are still untold numbers of people who are still in their homes—and they may need help soon.
At least 150 people were waiting to be rescued in New Bern, N.C., officials tweeted Thursday evening.
One resident, restaurant owner Tom Ballance, told the Associated Press he now thinks he should have evacuated.
“I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth,” Ballance said.
Questions Using Close Reading and Critical Thinking:

  1. The first section of an article should answer the questions “Who?”, “What?”, “When?”, and “Where?” Identify the four Ws of this article. (Note: The rest of the news article provides details on the why and/or how.)
  2. Does this article have any bias? Why or why not?
  3. Former firefighter Jon Wright said, “I’ve been through hurricanes before” and “Preparation is key.” He explained that hurricanes are unpredictable and it is difficult to foresee their trajectory. Why do you think residents disregarded the warnings to evacuate and decided to remain in their homes?
  4. For those who didn’t evacuate, what repercussions does this decision have? What is their main reason for now wanting aid? Craven County Emergency Services spokesperson Amber Parker said, “We’re helping out a lot of people today.” How are they assisting others?
  5. Although Florence has now weakened to a tropical storm, Accuweather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski said, “the worst is far from over.” What does the article state are the reasons why? He also commented that a majority of people die as a result of a “storm surge.” Its exact definition cannot be found within the article. Using this website,, describe what a storm surge is and how it is dangerous.
  6. In your opinion, what populations are the most vulnerable and find it difficult to find safety or leave their homes? Why do you feel they are “vulnerable?” Respond in 5–8 sentences. When finished, discuss with a classmate how your responses are similar and/or different.
  7. If you were in a hurricane’s path and were told to evacuate, would you heed the warning and leave, or would you stay? State three reasons for your decision.

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