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Coastal Evacuation Plan in the Works

Storm winds ruffle Carolina Beach grasses hours before tropical storm Ernesto arrives.

By Megan V. Williams

Wilmington, NC – North Carolina's emergency managers are in the process of developing the first-ever statewide evacuation and shelter plan for coastal counties.

The plan will match up coastal and inland counties, so that when evacuation orders are given, residents know in advance exactly where to head for shelter.

New Hanover County's Director of Emergency Management Warren Lee says the goal is identify easy-to-reach locations for each county, far enough inland to be out of harm's way.

"The public is more likely to take advantage of facilities that are offered if they're easy to get to and they don't have to wind all through the country to get to them," said Lee, who added that, at least in the draft plan, most of the sheltering counties are along the I-95 corridor.

According to Lee, the hardest part so far has been calculating how many residents and tourists might actually be affected by a storm.

Even armed with that number, Lee says emergency officials then need to determine how many of those people would actually evacuate, and of those, what percent would actually use the public shelters.

This is the first statewide effort to coordinate facilities and evacuation routes in advance. "We've all talked about this for years and we've had our little individual plans and agreements that we've done informally," Lee said, "but it has turned out quite an undertaking trying to do this for the entire coast."

A draft version of the Coastal Region Evacuation and Shelter Plan is due by the end of this month, with a final version expected in August.

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