Sep 13, 2018, 1:14 PM ET

People in Hurricane Florence's path explain decision to ride it out: 'I feel more comfortable here'

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Joyce Boucino lives a block and a half from the water in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, but she’s not leaving.

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She and her husband, along with a few other residents who’re defying the mandatory evacuation orders, are staying put as powerful Hurricane Florence looms off the Carolina coast in the coming hours and days.

“It feels more empty,” Boucino, 70, said of the neighborhood, which counts many seasonal residents. “And if you hear a noise, it gets your attention.”

Two big factors in their decision, echoing other residents in North and South Carolina who are determined to ride out the hurricane at home, are their pets and the confidence that their house is “very, very secure” because they oversaw the construction.

The Boucinos have several dogs and cats and are also fostering feral kittens for the storm.

“This is like having your children,” she said of the animals. “You’re not going to leave your children.

PHOTO: Pets are a major reason for many who are choosing not to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Florence. These are some of the animals staying with Joyce Boucino in North Myrtle Beach.Courtesy Joyce Boucino
Pets are a major reason for many who are choosing not to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Florence. These are some of the animals staying with Joyce Boucino in North Myrtle Beach.

“They’re feeling the stress. They’re feeling the atmospheric pressure changes and the stress of their owners.”

Rhonda Heath, who lives about 150 miles north in New Bern, North Carolina, faced a similar decision.

Heath, 54, is a volunteer president of the Colonial Capital Humane Society in New Bern and works in the accounting department of a construction company.

She is a lifelong resident of Craven County, and her single-story brick home falls in an area under a mandatory evacuation.

She has “too many animals” at her home, including some she is fostering for the storm, to bring to a shelter, Heath said.

“I feel more comfortable here,” she said, adding that if she were to leave, “I don’t know when we’d be able to get back.”

“This one has actually got me concerned because of the intensity,” she said of the storm

PHOTO:
SLIDESHOW: PHOTOS: Cleanup begins in the areas damaged by Hurricane Florence

Heath has been preparing for the storm “since last week,” stocking up with canned goods, bread, water and potato chips; “things that you don’t have to heat up and things that you don’t have to have electricity for,” she said.

“With me being in my house, I know I can take care of my animals here and I can take care of myself here,” Heath said.

Still, she added, “I’ve been through a lot of them but this one has given me the most uneasy feeling I’ve had about one.”

PHOTO: Workers are seen as they work to secure plywood ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina, Sept. 12, 2018.Chris Keane/Reuters
Workers are seen as they work to secure plywood ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina, Sept. 12, 2018.

Jaime Marvulli expressed a similar worry about Hurricane Florence. She is a high school physical education and sports medicine teacher in Conway, South Carolina, who has lived in the state since moving there for college in 1999.

The only other time she evacuated was as a college student in 1999 when her school issued a mandatory evacuation for Hurricane Floyd, Marvulli, 40, said.

“It’s the first time that I’m actually packing a bag, getting my dogs prepped,” she said.

“Honestly, this is the first time besides [the evacuation during college] that I’m actually packing some stuff, like if I have to grab and go.”

PHOTO: Jaime Marvulli said that she has four dogs staying with her in her home in Conway, South Carolina, including her Weimaraner (pictured). Courtesy Jaime Marvulli
Jaime Marvulli said that she has four dogs staying with her in her home in Conway, South Carolina, including her Weimaraner (pictured).

Her pets -- a Weimaraner and a black Labrador -- are also a factor, as are the two pit bulls belonging to a friend who is staying with her.

“Our house is divided right now,” she joked of keeping the dogs apart.

Her home is roughly 20 miles from the ocean and not in a mandatory evacuation zone but “pretty close,” Marvulli said.

Her community has banded together, with the residents of about a half-dozen houses staying put and checking in on one another.

“We make sure we have all the supplies that we need between the six houses,” Marvulli said, noting that extra ice, flashlights, candles and lanterns were among the supplies she collected.

While she is about 20 miles from the coast, Nikki Fontana’s house is a block and a half in from the ocean in North Myrtle Beach.

Fontana, a town councilwoman, is in the mandatory evacuation zone and plans to leave but it staying as late as possible because, with her role in government, “I like to know what’s going on with my city in a storm.”

She was born and raised in the area and has lived in a raised 1950s beach house for 18 years. The home has a garage and the office for her upholstery and rug cleaning business is on the ground level, while the two bedroom-home is above.

PHOTO: Sand bags surround homes on North Topsail Beach, N.C., Sept. 12, 2018, as Hurricane Florence threatens the coast.Chuck Burton/AP
Sand bags surround homes on North Topsail Beach, N.C., Sept. 12, 2018, as Hurricane Florence threatens the coast.

“We have brought in all the outdoor furniture, plants, secured grills, hot tubs,” Fontana said, ticking off the steps she has taken to secure the home.

“We’ve boarded up the windows, we moved our camper into our yard. It wouldn’t fit in the garage. One of our cars is boarded up in our garage. All the windows are boarded.

PHOTO: Nikki Fontana boarded up her home and secured her camper in her driveway in North Myrtle Beach ahead of the hurricane, and is waiting as long as she can before evacuating.Courtesy Nikki Fontana
Nikki Fontana boarded up her home and secured her camper in her driveway in North Myrtle Beach ahead of the hurricane, and is waiting as long as she can before evacuating.

“I worry about not the material things, not the houses, not the homes, not the businesses but the people first,” she said.

She plans to go either to relatives’ homes or an emergency operation center if and when she does evacuate, which she did in 2016 when Hurricane Matthew hit. She recalled how eerie it felt to go back out into the town after the storm.

“It was like being in another country,” Fontana recalled. “The entire city had lost power. It was dark out. It was kind of scary.”

This time, Fontana said, she has driven up and down the beach in recent days, noting that most people appear to have cleared out.

“It is a ghost town,” she said. “There’s no one out.”

News - People in Hurricane Florence's path explain decision to ride it out: 'I feel more comfortable here'

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  • Scanlan

    Well, I guess the good news is that those that stay behind and die won't be able to produce any more stupid offspring. Natural selection is real.

  • mrphilbert

    These fools think they are captains of their own personal arks and will bravely go down with the ship (pets included). Insanity at its most extreme. They will, however, demand to be rescued when the time comes putting other peoples lives at risk.

  • Andrew

    I certainly hope these reasonable women turn out to have made the right decisions. But if they turn out needing to be saved over the next few days, perhaps next time they might make an even more 'reasonable' decision to follow orders. I don't know. I hope they all survive. Who knows?

  • foldincaulfield

    If you have too many pets to fit in your car, you have too many pets.

  • GP

    There can be a whole host of reasons why a person or family would hunker down in the homestead under these conditions. You really don't know how you will react till it happens to you.

  • Renate

    I'm sure there are some that don't believe the "lame stream media" and think this is all "fake news". Trump is doing a great job of getting people to not believe anything the news is telling them.

  • Cindy2018

    I understand why some stay in their homes but only if they are not near the ocean or river. They are not only fearful for their animals but also looters. Last year while we were having our hurricane here in Florida I stayed home but sent the family to our daughter's house further away from the storm. Different looters tried to break in three nights in a row around 2-3am but the deadbolt locks held them back. I was standing guard with my pistol and yelled I've got a gun and I know how to use it! I took cover and told myself, wait till they enter then fire. Luckily they heeded my warning which scared them away. And all was safe.

  • Mike x

    Those sand bags should be all that house sitting right on the beach in North Topsail Beach, N.C. will need to survive a hurricane coming on shore with a 9 foot storm surge.

  • Bob Terry

    Helping stray cats has to be one of the most idiotic reasons for putting lives at risk. And yes I am a pet owner but I put my partners life above an animal. Things can be replaced people can't someone's support peacock is not a person.

  • Robert Earnest

    Most people who stay do so because they don't believe the consequences of staying will be as bad as they are being told.

  • Chuck

    So they are not only endangering their own lifes but the lives of their pets as well. How stupid can you be?

  • Gmh Gmh

    Have people forgotten New Orleans already? People sitting on roofs desperately waiting for help because they chose not to evacuate. I wish them luck but they won’t get any sympathy from me if they end up sitting on top of their roof waiting for someone to risk their life to rescue them also.

  • End of Life Ritual

    The reality is, not everyone can just uproot themselves for potentially weeks and relocate. There are many things that might make that impossible.
    Bashing them over the head for their decision and calling them stupid is ludicrous.

    They aren't going to get first responder help, but I have yet to hear a single one say they are expecting that. Let them be.

  • Toshiro Histugaya

    As long as they don't expect immediate rescue from first responders, so be it.

  • error_does not compute

    "Heath has been preparing for the storm “since last week,” stocking up with canned goods, bread, water and potato chips“ ... potato chips ? ;)

  • ranknfile

    Go ahead and stay "Nobody will hear your screams"

  • IT-Worker-Since-1990

    The real reason they are staying is that they are stupid. You should NOT stay in an area that is supposed to evacuate and especially if it is a hurricane. There will be flooding. If you have an medical emergency, you are on your own. Power lines can fall, if it hits your house, it can burn down. If the electricity is live and in the water, you can be electrocuted when you step in water to go somewhere else.

  • Arkansaw

    Apparently it never occurred to the people with multiple pets that if they got the word out, people would have been happy to help and find shelter inland for all of them.

  • BassPlyr73 Again

    I don't blame them for not leaving, although I might make a different choice. It's hard to judge without knowing everyone's individual situation. I wish them all well, and hope they come through ok.

  • phil stock

    Although not so in this case. I am sure there are many staying because they just cant afford to leave.

  • rampantlion

    These are the people that put first responders in danger. Have these people actually planned for all contingencies? I think not.

  • rkb555

    I'm looking at the sandbags surrounding the house. I think that'll do more harm than good. It looks like it will keep water in rather than keep it out creating a moat.

  • Dicazi

    20 miles from the ocean, as long as you're not below sea level, sounds acceptable.
    It's the idiots on the coast, or on islands that should be leaving. Pets or no pets.
    If your road is washed away, your car flooded out, how are you going to get out if your home is flooded? Is washed away?