Storm evacuees find refuge at speedways, makeshift shelters

|     Jeff Martin     |

HAMPTON, Georgia (AP) — Pieces of hurricane evacuee Melody Rawson’s South Carolina life are now spread out on a grassy field, a slab of concrete and a picnic table at a campground outside Atlanta Motor Speedway.

They include two dogs, a cockatoo in its cage, a couple of coolers with sandwich meat and the mangled remains of a tyre that blew out at midnight as Rawson and her companions ferried it all to the relative safety of Georgia.

The speedway has opened its campgrounds to Southerners escaping Hurricane Florence . It’s one of many impromptu shelters that have sprung up across the region as a refuge for the evacuees.

Rawson was among the first few who arrived early Wednesday at the speedway south of Atlanta. Among her family members is her partner and her 17-year-old son who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair. “We’re thankful for this generosity of free services, and we hope to have something left when we get home,” Rawson told The Associated Press. “We live in a first-floor apartment in Myrtle Beach, so you can’t take the chance, you know?”

More than 10 million people across the region were under hurricane watches or warnings, and hundreds of thousands have been ordered to evacuate. As of Tuesday, more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to flee. More than 300,000 people had already left the South Carolina coast, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said on Wednesday.

Gas shortages and jammed freeways loomed for evacuees seeking safety in far-away shelters, campgrounds and hotels. In North Carolina, one in 10 gas stations in Wilmington and Raleigh-Durham had no gas by midday on Wednesday.

US Navy diver Colin Richards based on Virginia’s coast, said he and his family planned to head for Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Richards is from. He was among the military personnel leaving coastal Virginia and North Carolina ahead of the hurricane. The 28-year-old was mostly concerned for his daughter who is one month and two days old.

US Navy diver Colin Richards and wife Louilyn with their newborn daughter prepare to leave Norfolk, Virginia on September 12 as Hurricane Florence approaches the East Coast. – AP