Ninety-one anxious seniors, some hyperventilating and clinging to their pets, were evacuated from an aging apartment building for low-income people over 62 Saturday afternoon in Hurricane Florence-battered Wilmington, N.C.
Two dozen firefighters were dispatched to the old Cape Fear Hotel and Apartments in a blinding rain storm, the aftermath of the hurricane that made landfall near Wilmington Friday morning, when residents called 911 to report water from the roof rained on nearly every floor and started flooding the lobby.
With no electricity for the second straight day due to thousands of uprooted trees and fallen power lines, and with fresh memories of 8 elderly residents who died in a nursing home when Hurricane Irma hit
Jon Bridges (C) and Ben Husser (C), both members of the Cajun Navy, load nursing home patients into the back of a truck as they assist emergency workers with the evacuation of a nursing home due to rising flood waters in Lumberton
Two dozen firefighters were dispatched to the old Cape Fear Hotel and Apartments in a blinding rain storm, the aftermath of the hurricane that made landfall near Wilmington Friday morning
Fire Rescue and EMS’s were on scene assisting in the evacuation. Here an EMT is seen rescuing some pets left behind in some of the rooms
‘We’ve been in a precarious situation for two days,’ said resident Bob Carmichael, 70. ‘It’s been raining in just about every rooms and we’ve been sleeping in the old ballroom. But without the elevator and air conditioning, people started feeling ill. So we called 911.’
Three school buses took the residents to the shelter, although they will become homeless after the rains. Firefighters fear the roof, heavy with rain that’s expected to fall through the weekend, is about to collapse.
Nearly half of the evacuees had to be assisted down a treacherous staircase in the nine-floor building. Several men and women made the slow trip in darkness carried in wheelchairs. Some residents were arguing they didn’t want to leave their meager possessions behind, and others negotiated the acceptance of cats or dogs or birds at the shelter. In the end, firefighters promised they could keep their companions through their shelter stay and pack some bags to make sure everybody would leave.
Inside Jean Baral’s home buckets were used to help curb the flow of water coming into the building
Damage on the 9th floor was extensive. All of the residents had to be evacuated because of damage from the storm
On the ninth floor, where ceiling tiles collapsed in the hallway and inside the one-bedroom apartments, Jean Baral trudged in ankle deep water in her bedroom while making sure she wasn’t leaving anything precious.
Originally from Connecticut, the 69-year-old Baral moved to the South to be with her two children and seven grandchildren, but none of them were there as she wondered where she was going to live after the storm.
She said she enjoyed living in the brick building, a Prohibition Era grand hotel that once featured red-clad bellboys and celebrities. Residents said Ronald Reagan once visited, as did his fellow long-ago movie stars Esther Williams and Michael Landon.
Residents were loaded into boats to evacuate them as their nursing home was desolated by flood waters
Jean Baral, gathering her belongings. She along with all of the other residents had to be evacuated because the complex was no longer structurally fit to live in
Mike Houston and Mary Stahl wait patiently on the second floor of what looked like a common area for the residents
But like many older hotels in U.S. cities, the Cape Fear became urban blight until it was transformed into modest, one-bedroom rental units for seniors. Rent is set according to one’s means and starts at $300 a month.
Residents told DailyMail.com how a cell phone company talked the owners into installing an antenna on the roof several years ago. But when the 100mph winds came early Friday morning, the cell phone tower was blown into the street along with large pieces of the roof.
As she packed some family mementos and necessities, Baral realized she had lost most of her possessions for ever.
The senior citizens were loaded into buses and relocated. Some were loaded into waiting ambulances
Three school buses took the residents to the shelter, although they will become homeless after the rains
‘You know what, I had renter’s insurance,’ she said, looking a water pouring through her ceiling fan as if it were a shower. ‘But I let it lapse Aug. 30 because I was a little strapped for cash. I don’t know how I’m going to get back on my feet.’
When the water started leaking from floor to floor through ceilings and walls, the Cape Fear’s residents gathered in the grand ballroom and made due. Some laid down cushions from couches and slept on the floor. Others brought the food they had left and put it on a table for anyone to use. A rotting watermelon and stale pop tarts were all that was left as the residents were evacuated.
Mike Houston, a former news photographer, rushed to the building from across the city to pick up his mother, 75.
‘She’s fine and I’m taking her back home with me,’ he said as he brought a cage with two cats down the stairs. ‘I hope she’ll agree to stay for a while this time.’
The death toll so far for Hurricane Florence has reached 11 people.
A firefighter is seen assisting in the evacuation
A Lumberton firefighter holds on to two nursing home patients as a member of the Cajun Navy drives his truck