David Hoffman has heard all the mandatory evacuation warnings as Hurricane Florence gets closer. But he’s not planning to leave Carolina Beach and is riding out the storm with his neighbors.
Hoffman, along with Billy Sample and Sample’s wife, say they’ve got homes to keep an eye on and pets to worry about. They’ve bought bottles of water, a shortwave radio and canned food, and are staying put at Sample’s house.
“I’m taking a life-threatening risk, but it’s my opportunity to protect my property,” Hoffman said. “With us not being able to come back onto the island for a week, I feel that’s a vital part.”
The Category 2 hurricane is hours away from expected landfall on the Southeast coast with potentially catastrophic flooding and storm surge that could reach 13 feet.
Florence’s center will approach the coast of the Carolinas late Thursday and Friday, but it’s unclear where it will make landfall. As the storm moves inland, parts of Georgia, Virginia and Maryland will also be in peril.
‘We’ve decided to stay and it’s on us’
Hoffman said the home is not at high risk of flooding because it’s 13 feet above sea level and a few blocks from the ocean.
When the storm passes, he plans to go out on the streets on his bike or in his kayak and check up on elderly neighbors who stayed behind. He’ll also survey nearby homes and send pictures of any damage to owners who evacuated.
“We have military that are dying every day in a war … to protect our country. I can at least do my little bit of part and that is keep an eye out for this little island that we have,” Hoffman said. “These are our homes, we live here full time. We are going to live here through our retirement.”
Hoffman said his construction experience will help him determine how badly the storm hits the roof and walls of the four-story building they’ll be sheltering in, and when it’s time to move to another floor.
And when the storm hits, Sample said, they won’t put authorities’ lives in danger by asking for help.
“We’ve decided to stay and it’s on us,” he said.
Sample said he and his wife are joining together with Hoffman because they’re not certain they’ll find a pet-friendly shelter. They also don’t know when they’ll be allowed to return home after the storm.
“Historically when there’s been a major storm, sometimes it’s been seven days before they allow you back (onto) the island,” he said. “We want to be able to protect our investments, our homes.”
Authorities have warned residents who are staying behind to provide contacts of their next of kin due to the risks involved.
On Wednesday, the Carolina Beach Fire Department ordered residents to leave the island in preparation for the hurricane, CNN affiliate WECT in Wilmington reported.
“This is a mandatory evacuation. All residents must be off the island by 8 p.m.,” a voice announced on a bullhorn.