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Storm Forces Thousands to Seek Shelter

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WILSON — It's estimated as many as 19,000 people sought shelter from Hurricane Bonnie in area shelters. Many of the 110 shelters set up for evacuees filled up fast.

Heavy rains cleared out Wilson businesses and roadways and flooded the county's one and only emergency shelter. Many residents rushed for cover at Toisnot Middle School.

"People here are getting the basics," says Chris Raper of the American Red Cross. "They're getting food, shelter. I'll be the first to admit this is not the Holiday Inn, but it sure is better than what's going on outside."

The population at Wilson County's only emergency shelter grew from 30 to 300 in just a few hours. Many of the people there were area residents who live in manufactured homes and were looking for a safer spot to ride out the storm.

The story was much the same in Johnston County, where the only shelter in town hit its limit quickly.

Sherry Fultz and her son Wayne fled their mobile home in Atlantic Beach Tuesday afternoon. After driving for hours, they finally found refuge at North Johnston Middle School.

"We went to Raleigh but there wasn't anything in Raleigh," says Fultz. "There was no place to stay or anything in Raleigh, and so we were directed back this way."

The Fultz's were the first to arrive, but within a short time they had plenty of company with 215 people crowding the shelter. Many of them with their eyes glued to the television watching Bonnies' latest developments.

"It'll stay open as long as necessary for the people," says Assistant Shelter Manager Wayne Bass. "I mean, we'll be here round-the-clock feeding them."

Two new shelters are now open in Johnston County. They are located at Four Oaks Middle School and Smithfield Middle School. ,Lynda Loveland,Chad Flowers