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Storm evacuees find refuge at speedways, improvised shelters

Phoebe Tesh covers her face as she talks about the package in order to evacuate from Wrightsville Beach, N. C., Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018 as Hurricane Florence threatens the coast. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

HAMPTON, Ga. Pieces of the hurricane evacuee Melody Rawson’s South Carolina life, now scattered across a lawn, a slab of concrete and a picnic table at a campsite outside of Atlanta Motor Speedway.

They have two dogs, a cockatoo in his cage, a couple of coolers with sandwich meats and the mutilated remains of a tire that blew at midnight Rawson and her companions, transferred to the relative safety of Georgia.

The speedway has opened his camp on the south-italians escape Hurricane Florence . It is one of the many makeshift shelters that have sprung up in the region as a refuge for the evacuees.

Rawson was one of the first who arrived early Wednesday on the highway south of Atlanta. Among her family members and her partner, Lisa, and her 17-year-old son who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair.

“We are grateful for this generosity of the free services, and we hope that we have something when we get home,” Rawson told The Associated Press. “We live in an apartment on the first floor in Myrtle Beach, so you can’t take the chance, you know?”

More than 10 million people in the region were under hurricane watches or warnings , and hundreds of thousands are ordered to evacuate.

As of Tuesday, more than 1.7 million people in the Carolina and Virginia were warned to flee. More than 300,000 people had already left the coast of South Carolina, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said Wednesday.

Gas shortages and jammed highways loomed for evacuees to find safety in far-off shelters, campsites and hotels. In North Carolina, one in 10 service stations in Wilmington and Raleigh-Durham had no gas by the afternoon Wednesday.

Colin Richards, a U.S. Navy diver based on Virginia’s coast, said he and his family are scheduled to go to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Richards is. He was among the soldiers leave coast of Virginia and North Carolina ahead of the hurricane. The 28-year-old was particularly worried for his daughter, who is a month and two days old.

“It’s very simple,” he said Wednesday in Norfolk. “We don’t want to live without the power to move with a newborn baby.”

In Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, Phoebe Tesh interrupted while loading her car for a glass of wine on the stairs of the house where she and her husband rent an apartment.

Tesh said on Wednesday that the couple had been making trips back and forth to carry valuables to her parents ‘ house on the mainland in Wilmington, where they plan to ride out the storm.

About a half a dozen campers had arrived early Wednesday at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia, but the track officials expect a lot more as soon as it was announced that evacuees could camp. Equipped with toilets and showers, together with electricity, water and sewage, the circuit campsites can accommodate about 5,000 people.

The opening of the circuit of the campsites is “just the thing to do,” Atlanta Motor Speedway President Ed Clark said Wednesday.

“It takes a little bit of that worry away as you leave the house and do not know where you want to go,” Clark added. “You can imagine that the storm is coming, call you with three campgrounds and they are all full. Where are you going?”

The Georgia speedway hosted storm refugees, along with pets and, in one case, three cages of chickens, Clark said. Last year, as Hurricane Irma threatened Florida, the speedway hosted at least 100 evacuees.

Bristol Motor Speedway, in the vicinity of the Tennessee-Virginia line, and the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina also have open campsites to people that a Hurricane Florence.

Georgia state parks are also welcoming evacuees from Florence, and provides a number of the camping are not a burden to them.

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Associated Press writers Jonathan Drew in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina; Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia; Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina; Skip Foreman in Charlotte, North Carolina; and Sarah Rankin in Richmond, Virginia, contributed to this story.

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For the latest news on Hurricane Florence, visit https://www.apnews.com/tag/Hurricanes .

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