Riding out the storm in Fike shelter

Second shelter opens at Darden Middle School

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During past storms, Giselle Sanchez’s home has been threatened with downed trees and floodwaters, so as Hurricane Florence churned toward Wilson, she headed to the shelter at Fike High School.

“There is nothing more important than our family’s life, so any possessions we left behind doesn’t matter because we can get that back,” she said. “We came here because I needed to make sure my mom, my kids, my sisters, our dog and myself are safe. I’m a nail tech and I work in the house, so it is sad if it is destroyed, but I can get that back.

“I really don’t care about material things as long as I have my family.”

Sanchez was among the first evacuees to check into the shelter Wednesday night, claiming a few cots on the perimeter of the gym and settling in.

A second shelter was opened Thursday afternoon at Darden Middle School.

Sanchez’s friend from New Bern also took shelter at Fike with four children of her own ranging in age from 9 months to 11 years old.

Fifty-one residents took refuge in the high school gymnasium Wednesday night, but the Sanchez’s dog, Apuki, was the only pup safe and sound in the county’s new Companion Animal Mobile Trailer, dubbed the Critter Camper. Volunteers with The Maggie Society are prepared to care for up to 22 animals during the storm, but pet owners are required to bring food, toys and a rabies vaccination certificate for animals.

“Wilson County and the Red Cross are doing an excellent job,” Sanchez said.

Linda Whitley and her 47-year-old handicapped son, Dennis Lam, also settled into cots Wednesday night. Whitley said with a home near Bill’s Barbecue, she is accustomed to the threat of floodwaters, so she usually gets out early instead of waiting.

“I’m glad there are people to help, especially with the handicapped,” Whitley said. “I couldn’t get him out, but coming here, I know we’ll be safe.”

As more evacuees trickled in Thursday, Sanchez’s mother — Pastor Aris Garcia of Feel Free Church Ministries on U.S. 301 — broke out her trumpet and garnered a flurry of applause with her rendition of “How Great is Our God.”

“I have faith and know God is in control, but we also have to use common sense,” Sanchez said. “My family’s well-being needs to be my priority now. I’m just glad we’re here and we’re safe.”

Space was fillling up quickly at the Fike shelter Thursday morning. Evacuees are encouraged to take blankets, pillows and sleeping pads. Cots at both shelters are first-come, first-served.

For more information about shelters and disaster conditions, download the ReadyNC app.