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Family That Survived Hurricane Maria Evacuates Ahead Of Florence

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Juan Rojas, right, and his 69-year-old mother Margarita Rivera, left, pack clothing into suitcases before storing them in their closet to protect them from any water damage that might occur in the storm.
Valerie Crowder, Public Radio East

Juan Rojas, right, and his 69-year-old mother Margarita Rivera, left, pack clothing into suitcases before storing them in their closet to protect them from any water damage that might occur in the storm.

Residents of Craven County, N.C., were under mandatory evacuation orders as of 2 p.m. on Tuesday. But before before those orders were even issued, a Puerto Rican family that survived last year's Hurricane Maria had already decided to leave their home in New Bern.

Juan Rojas, 30, and his family moved to New Bern from Corozal, Puerto Rico almost a year ago. He says their livelihoods came to a halt after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Rojas says as Hurricane Florence rapidly strengthened into a Category 4 storm on Monday, he and his family decided to leave for Marietta, Ga. (As of Wednesday afternoon, Florence had weakened into a Category 3 storm.)

"They said that Hurricane Maria was a Category 5 hurricane, but it was more," Rojas said. "She had tremors and she had tornados in her, too. They had houses flying over and everything, too. And it was bad. If that was in Puerto Rico, where the houses were concrete and everything was shaking, I don't want to know what's going to happen here."

Rojas he and his family underestimated the destruction Hurricane Maria would cause. So, they stayed at their home. He says that was a mistake they don't want to repeat by remaining in New Bern ahead of Hurricane Florence, which is expected to remain a major hurricane when it hits the Carolinas on Friday.

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"A lot of people, including myself, we thought that that's not going to happen until she was there," Rojas said. "That kind of mentality can ruin you."

Craven County officials ordered residents to start evacuating on Tuesday. They say this is the first mandatory evacuation order the county has ever issued ahead of a storm.

For residents who choose to remain in the county, officials advise them to have enough food and water to last five to eight days and to expect to be without power for an extended length of time.

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