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‘We always try to serve the neighborhood’: Restaurant opens day Florence makes landfall

Frank Koo talks with customer Stephon Ogunduyilemi at Wok Express on North Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Friday, Sept. 14, 2018.
Frank Koo talks with customer Stephon Ogunduyilemi at Wok Express on North Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. ehyman@newsobserver.com

On Friday evening, it was just another day at Wok Express on North Kings Highway.

Around 6:30 p.m., eight people filled the small restaurant, couples and families waiting on hot food that would give them a break from days of hurricane snacks.

The restaurant was one of the few open on the day Hurricane Florence made contact with the Carolina coast, a storm that had once been anticipated to hit Wednesday.

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“We always try to serve the neighborhood before the last moment,” said Frank Koo, owner of Wok Express. “The law enforcement, almost everyone knows we’re open.”

Koo said he has closed his restaurant, which he opened 27 years ago, only for Hurricane Hazel, a Category 4 storm that devastated the Carolinas.

Earlier in the day, about half a dozen Myrtle Beach police officers filled the restaurant, taking a break from the Donut Man that was open near 3rd Avenue South and Waffle House.

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Jennifer Koo puts meals together at Wok Express on North Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

“People told me down here, told me it would be open,” Carolina Forest resident Stephon Ogunduyilemi said. “I was tired of the Waffle House for the past four, five days.”

But giant gusts of wind reminded the occupants of the storm that was raging outside, pounding rain into the empty streets.

Patrice Richards, who evacuated the area when Hurricane Matthew hit the Grand Strand in 2016 as a Category 1 storm, decided to stay for Hurricane Florence in her condo next to the restaurant.

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“I went to Raleigh for Hurricane Matthew and I was stuck there for three extra days,” Richards said, saying most people in her building chose to stay put.

Koo said there are few things that will cause him to shut his restaurant down, saying he doesn’t worry about any flooding, as his wife Jennifer Koo put together meals in the kitchen.

“The storm doesn’t bother me,” Frank Koo said.

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