Before Craven County ordered residents to evacuate on Tuesday, a Puerto Rican family that survived Hurricane Maria had already decided to leave their New Bern home.
Juan Rojas, 30, and his family moved to New Bern, NC from Corozal, Puerto Rico almost a year ago. He says their livelihoods came to a halt after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Rojas says after Hurricane Florence rapidly strengthened into a category four storm on Monday, he and his family decided to leave for Marietta, Georgia.
“They said that Hurricane Maria was a category five hurricane, but it was more," Rojas said. "She had tremors and she had tornados in her, too. They had houses flying over and everything, too. And it was bad. If that was in Puerto Rico, where the houses were concrete and everything was shaking, I don’t want to know what’s going to happen here.”
Rojas says before Hurricane Maria hit, he and his family underestimated the destruction she would cause. So, they stayed at their home. He says that’s a mistake they don’t want to repeat by remaining in New Bern ahead of Hurricane Florence, which is expected to remain a major hurricane when it hits the Carolinas.
“A lot of people, including myself, we thought that that’s not going to happen until she was there," Rojas said. "That kind of mentality can ruin you."
Craven County officials ordered residents to start evacuating on Tuesday. They say this is the first mandatory evacuation order the county has ever issued ahead of a storm. Four shelters in the county opened at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. Those are located at Havelock High School, Brinson Elementary, Ben D. Quinn Elementary and Farm Life Elementary.
For residents who choose to remain in the county, officials advise them to have enough food and water to last five to eight days and to expect to be without power for an extended length of time.