By Taylor Knopf
George Alsberg of Wilmington is probably one of the oldest Hurricane Florence evacuees at 103 years old.
He and more than 1,000 others evacuated from coastal areas to Wake County this week. The county has six shelters open right now, a list of which can be found online here.
“I think I’m the oldest person here by quite a few years,” George said.
He described living a full life, which included visiting more than 100 countries in his work as a tour operator. That followed an earlier career with the State Department that included living in Paris after World War II where he worked on the Marshall Plan. In 2015, he and his wife Sharyn moved to the Tarheel state from Minnesota.
But he said he’s never been through a hurricane like Florence.
The couple, along with their son Ty Hughs and his dog Governor, made a last minute decision to get on an evacuation bus Wednesday and come to the dog-friendly shelter at Southeast Raleigh High School.
They boarded up their house and left when they heard that Florence’s winds had reached Category 5 strength. But Sharyn said about a third of the residents in their retirement community were staying through the storm, which George called “crazy stupid.”
At 103, George said he’s on “quite a bit of medication” and brought 10 days worth to Raleigh. The rest he stored in his car parked inside a city-owned garage along with his other prized possessions, such as memories from his travels and 250 pages of a book he’s writing. He brought another copy of his book on a USB drive to Raleigh for safe keeping.
George and Sharyn said the shelter was “surprisingly clean” and prepared and the staff were very attentive. They walked around the high school and in the parking lot passing time before the storm’s winds and rains arrived.
George said he has always stayed active. He downhill skied until he was almost 90.
“I did my last trip skiing in Colorado at 89 years old, and I was climbing mountains until 86,” he said. “I gave that up because going up was no problem, but coming down was hard on my knees. Now I get my exercise walking about a mile a day. That keeps me going.”
While the Alsbergs were getting in as much exercise as possible before the storm, others were confined to their cots, on oxygen and bored already.
Oxygen tanks and new neighbors
Harold Hudson, 80, from Jacksonville needs oxygen 24/7 for his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He said there was no oxygen for him in Raleigh, so Family Medical Supply in Cary brought a last minute oxygen supply Thursday afternoon for him and some of the other elderly evacuees.
Police officers were ready outside to help bring in the supplies.
“If I had had it my way, we would have stayed. The wife and her daughter wanted to leave,” Hudson said Thursday. “And they called for a mandatory evacuation. So we got up at daybreak to come here.”
He and his family have lived in Jacksonville since 1991 and hunkered down for both Hurricanes Fran and Floyd. The only reason he left this time was because it was mandatory.
Hudson and his wife Doris were set up in a corner of the high school gymnasium. There, they learned the woman in the cot next to them just happened to live a few streets over from their Jacksonville home.
Pearl White evacuated on her own with her Chihuahua, Canella. She said she was disappointed that pets had to stay in another room and said she would likely never evacuate again.
“I’ll take my chances next time,” White said. “It’s not worth it. There too much going on and they left the lights on last night. People are always talking and the kids are loud.”
She did agree, as did everyone who spoke to NC Health News, that the staff and volunteers were “great and very accommodating.”
“But these guys have taken me on,” she said of her new friends, the Hudsons.
“I’ve been passing the time with knitting, my book, my phone, and talking with my friends here,” she said.