US beach town braces for powerful Hurricane Florence

Wooden planks boarding up windows, sandbags lining the edge of the placid-for-now ocean: locals of one seaside resort in North Carolina are maintaining relative calm as they gird for Hurricane Florence -- an attitude somewhat masking their anxiety, as the potentially catastrophic storm closes in on them.

As skies fluctuated Tuesday between heavy showers and occasional bright spots, a certain sunny outlook swaddled Wrightsville Beach, despite the looming arrival of Florence’s heavy winds and inundating rains that has prompted widespread evacuations along the southeastern US coast.

Kevin Goricki, who came to visit the normally idyllic area — known as the backdrop for the hit 2000s-era series “Dawson’s Creek” — still intends to enjoy the beach with his family.

The 29-year-old said he already went through 2011’s Hurricane Irene, and cited flooding as the worst threat. He doesn’t fear for his family’s safety, though, saying they will hunker down at his sister’s third-floor home.

“I must confess I like the atmosphere around it,” he said, looking out over the Atlantic.

But others are more wary: Mexican restaurant Tower Seven has closed and barricaded its doors to customers since Tuesday, hanging a sign on the door warning people to “be safe.”

Jim Wenning, a regular there, arrived at the scene to help the boss try “to avoid additional damage.”

“We haven’t see a storm like this since the 1950s,” said the construction worker, drill in hand. “It could be chaotic around here for a week or so.”


– Race against the clock –


He lives a bit further inland, and has yet to decide whether he will evacuate.

“I’ll leave if the winds are still above 130 mph, because my house hasn’t been built to resist more,” he said. “I’ll make a last minute decision.”

But Greg Cook and his girlfriend, who have called Wrightsville Beach home for seven years, chose to move everything — mattresses, lamps, dressers, a grill — before Florence’s arrival.

“We’ve already been flooded three times, but it should be a completely different story this time around,” he said. “People usually say ‘it’s ok, the hurricane will turn North, we’ll be fine.'”

“But this time everybody thinks it will really happen — and that it will be bad.”

Those intending to leave face a race against the clock to flee the island town just east of the port city Wilmington, as drawbridge access to it will be raised Wednesday evening.

Water and electricity will also be cut — but even that’s not enough to deter some from staying at all costs.

“Our neighbor thinks he’s safe on the first floor,” Cook said. “We are leaving him our generator, but I don’t think it’s particularly smart of him.” DM


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