Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Pender County denies rumors that its Florence shelters were unsafe

Rumors have been circulating that the shelters in Pender County could not stand up to a category 3 hurricane, but officials say that is not true.

The Pender County School System has placed several schools on a code-red lockdown (Port City Daily photo/File)
Pender County denied that its four school shelters were unsafe and had incurred damages from winds and flooding. (Port City Daily photo/File)

BURGAW — On Thursday Pender County Health and Human Services Director Carolyn Moser denied rumors that school shelters opened during Hurricane Florence were not rated to withstand up to Category 3 force winds.

“That wouldn’t be true, otherwise we wouldn’t have housed people in those shelters,” Moser said. “That’s why Pender Memorial closed, because it was not rated to withstand Category 3 winds.”

She said that each of the four shelters was thoroughly vetted and approved by the Red Cross and her own health staff prior to Florence’s landfall.

“The rumors are unsubstantiated,” Moser said, when asked about some residents’ concerns that the shelters were not built to withstand Category 3 winds.

Pender County spokeswoman Tammy Proctor earlier said that a few of the schools had incurred wind damage and flooding, but Moser said that to her knowledge, no such damages were reported in the schools operating as shelters.

“There were no damages to facilities that had people in them at the time, that I know of. If they had been, we would have worked to find other places to put them,” Moser said.

Moser did say that some of the school buildings had encountered issues with mold due to a lack of air circulation during the storm.

She also said that each shelter was staffed by a minimum of two Red Cross employees, two public health nurses, and two staff from the Department of Social Services. During the peak of the storm, the county’s four shelters housed roughly 1,000 evacuees, many brought in by helicopters during the widespread flooding that effected the county, according to Moser.

Although nearby New Hanover County opened a total of 11 shelters during Florence, Moser said that Pender’s smaller population, as well as the comparative limited size of its school buildings, accounted for the county’s decision to open only four shelters.

“We’re very limited in the facilities we can put individuals in when you look at the size,” Moser said. “In New Hanover, Hoggart housed over a thousand people. We can’t do that in our schools.”

However, these limitations did not effect the success of the county’s shelter operations, according to Moser.

“We had no one — that I’m aware of — who did not have shelter who needed it,” Moser said.

Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@localvoicemedia.com

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