Michigan groups send help ahead of Florence

Detroit News staff and wire reports
Robert Barker moves a gas can to make way for storm supplies and extra groceries in New Bern, N.C., Tuesday.

As Hurricane Florence barrels toward the East Coast and threatens to wreak havoc for millions, some Metro Detroit groups and businesses are prepping to help disaster relief efforts.

DTE Energy has deployed 250 contractors and 150 vehicles to Raleigh, North Carolina, to aid power-restoration after the storm’s expected landfall on Friday, spokeswoman Randi Berris said. The crews left Wednesday.

More: Florence begins lashing Carolinas

“DTE is monitoring the situation in North Carolina and will determine whether it will deploy additional resources if the need arises,” Berris said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Michigan Humane Society on Tuesday sent a two-person team to Greenville, South Carolina, to help move animals from areas that may be affected, the group said in a Facebook post.

“These animals will be transported to our Westland facility, where they will be evaluated and either put up for adoption through MHS or with our partners throughout the state,” officials wrote.

Meanwhile, a University of Michigan club dedicated to helping people plans to travel to the hurricane zone during fall study break in mid-October. Wolverine Disaster Relief was started in 2017 by business students who wanted to develop leaders and make a difference in the world.

Volunteers have traveled to Texas and Puerto Rico to help people. Tim Carter, co-president of the group, says the club is an opportunity to mix “business expertise with public engagement.” He’s pursuing a master’s degree after working for seven years in humanitarian efforts, most recently in South Sudan.

Carter says he’s studying how business can be used to alleviate poverty.

The reinforcements come as forecasters say Florence has weakened to a Category 1 storm as it lashes the North Carolina coast.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm is expected to bring a life-threatening storm surge and rainfall as it approaches the coast Thursday and Friday.

As of 11 p.m., the storm was centered about 50 miles south of Morehead City, North Carolina. The storm was moving northwest at 6 mph. The core is also about 60 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina. Its maximum sustained winds have dropped 90 mph.

More than 10 million people across the region were under hurricane watches or warnings, and hundreds of thousands have been ordered to evacuate.

On Tuesday, more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to flee. More than 300,000 people had already left the South Carolina coast, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said Wednesday.

Gas shortages and jammed freeways loomed for evacuees seeking safety in far-away shelters, campgrounds and hotels.

President Donald Trump is urging those living in the path of Florence to comply with evacuation orders and emergency instructions. Speaking Wednesday at the White House, Trump said “protection of life is the absolute highest priority.”