Nearly 500 people were taking shelter at the North Myrtle Beach High School just before 3 p.m. Thursday as the South Carolina coast prepared for Hurricane Florence.
Starr Fanalli, Nikolas Alkema and their 7-month-old son, Jayden, have only lived in Little River for two months. This is the first hurricane they’ve faced in their new home.
Fanalli previously lived in New Jersey, so she isn’t completely new to hurricanes, but she said Florence seems different.
“This is a little bit intense,” she said.
Alkema said it was hard to decide whether to evacuate or where to go with a 7-month-old.
“We figured we’d be safer here,” Fanalli said.
Ernie Woody, a Red Cross volunteer from Idaho, flew down to South Carolina to help the pre-storm relief efforts.
“This shelter is a godsend for a lot of people,” he said.
Woody said there still was room at the shelter, and more people were expected to come as conditions worsened. North Myrtle Beach Principal Trevor Strawderman said people began lining up at the shelter early Tuesday.
“I really suspect we’ll have another 100, 200,” Strawderman said.
The shelter set up families with young children in the high school gym, where kids can run around.
“This provides a lot of safety,” said Jamil Washington, of Myrtle Beach. “It’s something for the kids not to be scared, play around while everything is going on. It’s just a good place to be right now.”
Jamil Washington said he and his family moved to Myrtle Beach from Pittsburgh about a year ago. This is their first major storm.
Across from the gym, older people napped down the high school hallway on cots and the floor, covered with Red Cross blankets.
Donald Stanley, a World War II veteran, said he’s been at the shelter for three days. He lives in North Myrtle Beach, only a block or two from the beachfront.
Stanley, 92, said he joined the Navy at 16. He has weathered other storms in the Myrtle Beach area, he said.
“You say to yourself: ‘I’ve been through this before,’” he said, adding that he’s seen other storms “fizzle out” in the past.
“Whatever will be, will be, when you live to 92 years old,” Stanley said.
Randy Webster, Horry County’s emergency management director, said Thursday there were about 2,000 people in all county shelters.
Cuthbert Langley with Red Cross said Friday afternoon that more than 5,500 people stayed in 59 Red Cross shelters throughout the state.