New Hanover County issues voluntary evacuations, shelters to open Friday evening is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

New Hanover County Emergency Management Director Warren Lee (left) stands at the podium to brief area residents on Hurricane Matthew. (Photo by Christina Haley)
New Hanover County Emergency Management Director Warren Lee (left) stands at the podium to brief area residents on Hurricane Matthew. (Photo by Christina Haley)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — A voluntary evacuation has been issued for New Hanover County and shelters in the county will open Friday evening, New Hanover County Emergency Management Director Warren Lee said during a Hurricane Matthew briefing Friday morning.

The county is advising that residents who wish to leave the area or seek shelter do so before the storm hits Saturday, Lee said. New Hanover and surrounding counties are now under a Hurricane Warning.

“This is a significant event for us. It is not one to be taken lightly,” Lee said.

The county is monitoring the storm and its track, and are prepared to take action if necessary. Two shelters are scheduled to open at 5 p.m. Friday:

Johnson Pre-K at 1100 McRae St.

Trask Middle School at 2900 N. College Road (pet-friendly shelter)

The shelters are meant to assist those in low lying areas and areas prone to flooding. Including, but not limited to: New Centre Drive, Racine Drive, and Edgewater Club Road. According to the county, public shelters should be considered “shelters of last resort,” with very basic provisions for a safe and dry environment and limited meal capabilities.

Trask Middle School has a co-location shelter that’s available to house cats and dogs. Animals will be maintained in a separate wing of the facility, and owners are allowed visitation at designated times. Residents leaving town or staying in a location that does not welcome pets have the option of taking their pet to the New Hanover County Animal Services Unit at 180 Division Drive. Owners are responsible for providing a crate for their pet.

The shelters will not provide a meal Friday evening. Lee asked those who go to the shelter to bring their personal items and a snack, or eat before arrival. Lee asked residents to seek shelter before the storm hits.

The county is also closing all government offices at 3 p.m. Friday, with no set time of reopening due to the uncertainly of the storms impacts on the county. Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, who was also at the county’e hurricane briefing on Friday, said the city is following suite with the county and will close all government offices at 3 p.m.

Hurricane Matthew continues to head northwest along the east coast and the center of the storm is tracked to an area 25 to 30 miles off-shore of the Cape Fear area, Lee said. What concerns emergency management most, Lee said, is the potential for flooding, and wide-spread power-outages due to an already saturated ground and high winds.

Residents who opt to stay at their homes are asked to stay indoors throughout the duration of the storm. They also advise to stay indoors even after the storm until authorities can assess county areas for safety.

To keep updated on the latest information from New Hanover County visit the emergency management website. The county has also established a joint information center hotline to field calls from residents and visitors.  The hotline is available 24-hours at 910-798-6800.