CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) District has allowed the Red Cross to use five of its schools as emergency shelters for people seeking relief from Hurricane Florence.
The shelters are located at East Mecklenburg High School, South Mecklenburg High School, North Mecklenburg High School and Ardrey Kell High School.
There was originally a shelter at Olympic High School, but it was closed Wednesday night. Another shelter in Charlotte is scheduled to be open Thursday, but the location and time is still to be confirmed.
The shelters opened Wednesday and will remain open as long as they are needed. The schools chosen as shelters were picked for a reason.
"Once we identify where the storm is going to hit or as likely as we can," Red Cross Jerri Jameson said. "We try to be strategic because we don't want to have to open a place just to evacuate it."
The shelters inside CMS schools are far enough away from the eye of the storm but close enough for people seeking shelter to get to it.
Once evacuees arrive at the shelter they will have a safe and dry place to sleep and eat.
“Three meals a day,” Jameson said. “Snacks and beverages all the time. We just don’t allow the food in the dormitory.”
The shelter also has a place for pets traveling with their owners. Kennels will be located in the boys locker room with all the necessities. Jameson says pets are not only important to the owner but also for evacuees who arrive with no pets but lots of worry.
“It’s traumatic to flee your home,” Jameson said. “And sometimes a dog, especially a therapy dog, and things like that - it just brings a sense of calm. You kind of see people start petting and you can see some of the tension just be relieved.”
Shelters will also have a room for people who experience a health challenge while they are away from their home. Medical professionals will be at the South Mecklenburg High School shelter 24 hours looking out for the evacuees. Other shelters will have staff present or on call.
"If you need any kind of health services," Jameson said. "If you need your medication replaced because you left without them - we have nurses on hand who help you get that - also replaced eyeglasses like that."
The Red Cross says Tuesday night about 1,600 people used a Red Cross or a community shelter either in North Carolina or South Carolina to escape the storm. Also about 1,500 volunteers are on the ground are in route to help people who will be in need.
"We take this opportunity to again urge our people not to panic," Jameson said. "But to prepare now. Get your emergency kits ready. Make sure you have an evacuation plan - how you are going to reach your family members."
If you need help to find a shelter click here www.redcross.org/shelter
You can also download the Red Cross Emergency App or call 1 800-RED CROSS.
Red Cross also encourages people to check their county’s website for additional shelter information.