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Shelters Provide Safe Housing to Bonnie Evacuees

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WILSON — More than a 500,000 people have left the coast for dryer land. They all have to go somewhere.

Hotels are filling up fast, and dozens of shelters opened across the state.

There are 85 American Red Cross shelters set up across North Carolina. At Toisnot Middle School in Wilson, they signed up about 15 people Tuesday night. However, two years ago during Fran the shelter housed 450 evacuees.

The first evacuees began trickling in around 7 p.m.. Shana O'Hara and her son live in a mobile park in Wilson county. They witnessed the destruction Fran inflicted there two years ago. Tuesday night, they decided not to take any chances.

"We were here during Fran, and we thought that we would be safer here than in a mobile home," O'Hara said.

Volunteers started assembling cots and collecting food donations during the afternoon. Hundreds of people sought refuge at Toisnot during Fran, now volunteers are ready to handle whatever comes their way.

"We're prepared to take care of anyone that comes in that need shelter," American Red Cross volunteer Martha Belands said. "We are prepared to feed them. We have a nurse on the premisis."

There were no empty beds at local hotels Tuesday night. The telephone at a Wilson Best Western started ringing as soon as the hurricane warnings went up.

Visitors whose vacations were cut short have booked every hotel room in Wilson and other nearby towns.

One Minnesota family's vacation took an unexpected turn when they had to evacuate from Nags Head.

"That is disappointing because we were really looking forward to the beach," tourist Diane Serfling said. "We're from Minnesota so being on the beach is like a novelty."

The American Red Cross said that they expect a lot more people on Wednesday. They plan to open even more shelters that will stay open around the clock as long as they are needed.


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