AAA: Nearly half of North Carolinians wouldn't seek shelter from storm during pandemic

Posted July 31, 2020 12:02 p.m. EDT
Updated July 31, 2020 2:12 p.m. EDT

— North Carolinians are less likely to seek out shelters this hurricane season due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a AAA survey.

Twenty-three percent of state residents were more concerned about the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season than they were last year, and 37% said they would be less likely to evacuate this year due to COVID-19, the survey shows.

Of those who would evacuate, 52% said they would leave home only for a Category 3 storm or greater, although it's important to note that severe flooding can occur in much weaker storms. Thirty-one percent said they would not leave home at all, even if they were asked to evacuate.

Leaders say it's crucial to get people – and pets – out of homes threatened by flooding or another natural disaster. However, state Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said relying on group shelters should be a last choice.

Before a storm, have an evacuation plan that involves staying with friends or family or plan to stay in a hotel, emergency leaders say. While group shelters will still be available, social distancing requirements will reduce their capacity.

The Know Your Zone evacuation tool can prevent unnecessary evacuations, freeing more shelter space for those who need it most.

Instead of housing hurricane victims in large, open spaces, the American Red Cross is calling for people to be put in hotels, dormitories and classrooms, where they can be more easily separated.

Sprayberry said the state is prepared to use hotel rooms, schools and other alternate shelter options during the pandemic but that it's "easier said than done." According to Sprayberry, some congregate shelters will have to be used, but those that open will have a minimum of 115 square feet per person.

Wake County Communications Director Dara Demi said that, although officials aren't ready to release the names of potential shelter locations, a variety of alternate shelters will be available if people need to evacuate.

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