Hurricane Florence could destroy thousands of homes in the poorest cities, leaving residents homeless and unable to rebuild, experts warned.
The predicted trajectory of the "monstrous" storm means problems for low-income communities in eastern North Carolina and South Carolina, which historically were built in flood-prone lowlands, while the rich took the higher ground .
The city of Princeville was recently hit by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and many of its 2,300 residents fear they will have to leave the city forever if Florence causes similar devastation.
The predicted path of the "monstrous" storm means problems for low-income communities in eastern North Carolina and South Carolina. In the image: People line up to enter a hurricane shelter on Tuesday at Trask Middle School in North Carolina
"It's scaring me to death," said James Howell Jr. "If I lose my place, I will not come back. I will not be back in Princeville.
He still has furniture wrapped in canvas on his porch because he is still rebuilding his living room after the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew, which left two feet of stagnant water in his house.
Howell believes he has two options if he needs to flee. His daughter lives about 30 miles west, away from the river. True, that's where his most precious possessions loaded aboard his truck will likely go on Wednesday, he said.
And her granddaughter is staying at a safe motel through the generosity of her retail employer, so maybe Howell and his wife can rest there, he said.
The rich have long claimed higher lands along the waterways, and that left the slaves freed to reclaim land from the bottom that made Princeville the first city in the country incorporated by black Americans.
Many people with limited means, such as the disabled, Howells will fight to escape from Florence, or rebuild when their damage is done.
Princeville's average family income is approximately $ 28,000 per year compared to $ 48,000 statewide, and nearly six out of ten residents have public health insurance coverage such as Medicare, Medicaid or the 2016 Children's Health Insurance Program, according to the US Census Bureau UU
The path predicted by Florence means problems for some of the poorest communities in eastern North Carolina and South Carolina, said Susan Cutter, director of the Risk and Vulnerability Research Institute at the University of South Carolina.
James Howell Jr. assesses how to protect his home on Tuesday in Princeville, North Carolina. The house was damaged by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Howell said the furniture on his porch is there because he had to leave and rebuild the living room.
Dorothy Pope, 78, and her sister, Clydie Gardner, 71, settle into the house they share in Princeville, after a normal grocery store on Tuesday. They are watching the storm but have no plans to leave unless they are threatened by the floods
Dozens of poor black communities like Princeville throughout the region will have a harder time dealing with Florence "in part because of the historical inequality that was there," he said.
"What scares me is that there are many people who are not going to be fine because they do not have high structures," Cutter said.
"They are in areas prone to low floods and did not leave because they had nowhere to go or resources to get there."
The smaller and economically troubled communities in eastern North Carolina from Seven Springs and Windsor, near the Virginia border, to Lumberton, along the South Carolina line, continue to work to recover from Matthew.
But Gov. Roy Cooper, who was elected weeks after the hurricane struck, vowed Tuesday that low-income people will not have to fend for themselves.
The state is using detailed mappings to identify where possible floods could occur and share that information with local governments that will warn people to move.
"The idea is to have those shelters available to people on higher ground, and no matter what their income is, we want to get people out of places that may be flooded," Cooper said.
A satellite image taken on Tuesday shows Hurricane Florence in the Atlantic Ocean as it moves towards the east coast
In Beaufort County, more than 100 miles east of Raleigh, emergency management officials will use school system buses on Wednesday to move residents from flood prone areas to higher ground in Washington, the county seat. .
There, the local high school will house up to 500 people. The county is divided by the broad Pamlico River and some of the 45,000 residents lack vehicles to reach the refuge on their own.
"We are trying to provide transportation where they do not have transportation," said Carnie Hedgepeth, director of emergency services for the county.
Retired sisters Clydie Gardner, 71, and Dorothy Pope, 78, fled in 2016 from the flood that spread to the house they shared before a huge oak, whose roots were loosened by Matthew's rain and collapsed on building.
They will flee back to an aunt's house on higher ground on the other side of the river. For now, there is nothing to do but wait to see if Florence threatens them again.
"They say it's 400 miles wide, it's not known what it could do," Pope said. & # 39; When the water starts to come and I see it coming, I'm moving & # 39;
At least 25 million residents on the east coast are at risk from the hurricane, which is expected to deliver a "direct hit". this week, with winds of 157 mph, devastating floods and even the threat of a contaminated water supply.
The hurricane threatens life & # 39; It has triggered massive evacuations with up to 1.5 million people warned to seek refuge from the potentially catastrophic storm, while five million are under direct hurricane warning.
"This will probably be the storm of your life in parts of the Carolina coast," said the National Weather Service.
Many low-income communities in the Carolinas are still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Matthew in 2016. In the photograph: houses flooded in Lumberton, North Carolina, on October 10, 2016.
The service added that "it could not emphasize enough the potential for incredible damage."
Hurricane Florence suddenly changed course overnight, promising even worse devastation for the Carolinas and even parts of Georgia with the Michigan-sized storm that will last for days and cause "catastrophic" floods with up to four feet of rain and 13 feet the storm tides.
Florence remained a Category 4 hurricane on Wednesday morning, after slowing slightly to 130 mph overnight and is expected to get stuck even further on the coast of the Carolinas before crawling to the east coast of the United States before of the weekend.
The new trajectory means that the storm will remain idle at sea for longer, creating even stronger and longer rains and storm surges for the Carolinas and possibly in northern Georgia.
Hurricane Katrina in 2005 became the most devastating hurricane in the history of the United States when it hit Florida and the central Gulf Coast in 2005, causing damage worth $ 108 billion.