Lawrence Collins tapes a window at Seabreeze Apartments in Cape Charles, which was under mandatory evacuation at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
By Ted Shockley
Robin Rogers and Lawrence Collins stood Tuesday morning in the parking lot of Seabreeze Apartments in a part of Cape Charles under mandatory evacuation.
But Northampton County has no hurricane shelters. Instead, an agreement with Accomack County means Northampton residents seeking higher ground must travel to Nandua Middle School, 35 miles and 45 minutes away from Seabreeze Apartments.
“Nandua’s a long way away,” said Collins, the complex’s maintenance supervisor.
“I don’t even know where it is,” said Rogers of the school, which stands roughly behind the Bojangles’ restaurant on Lankford Highway in Onley.
“It’s crazy,” said Rogers. “Northampton needs something.”
With all eyes on Hurricane Florence, residents in low-lying areas of Cape Charles and coastal areas of Northampton talked about an incongruity – a county surrounded on three sides by water had no place for its residents to evacuate to in the event of a hurricane.
Northampton County Administrator Charles Kolakowski said the county’s two elementary schools, opened 25 years ago, have too many windows to be a hurricane shelter.
Modern buildings at the county seat in Eastville, including the courthouse and Social Services building, are not equipped to be a shelter, he said.
The structural credibility has been in question for more than a decade at Northampton High School, which an engineering firm found in 2007 to be in poor structural condition.
The need for a hurricane shelter is “an issue the county has looked at,” said Kolakowski.
“It’s not an idea that’s been disregarded or ignored,” he said.
But Kolakowski said areas with smaller populations don’t have the facilities and resources of larger areas.
“The county has 12,000 people, which in many areas is a small town,” he said. “Not every small town has a shelter set up.”
Luis Ortiz, standing near his car in the Seabreeze parking lot, wasn’t going to the shelter. He was going farther – even though he hadn’t yet found a motel.
“I thought about going to Maryland or Delaware,” he said. “I’ve looked but all the hotels are sold out.”
Rogers, the facility manager, said she told Seabreeze residents Tuesday morning that a mandatory evacuation had been announced for that area.
She admitted she had no idea where to tell them to evacuate to.
“Some people have nowhere to go,” she said.