Alleged looters have already taken advantage of the dire situation along the North Carolina coast in Brunswick County as Hurricane Florence slowly moves past. The Sheriff's Office there has taken four people into custody for break-ins overnight after most business and homes were left empty by mandatory evacuations.
WWAY-TV in Wilmington, N.C., sat down with Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram who said his office got a call about suspicious people breaking into cars on the south edge of the county. They also got a call about a business being broken into on the north end of the county, according to the sheriff.
Ingram told WWAY-TV the Sheriff's Office was working hard to protect property after most of the area evacuated ahead of Hurricane Florence's landfall early this morning.
“I want to send a message to the criminal element that’s looking for that opportunity, we’re gonna do everything within our power, to be very vigilant, working with our community, and if you seek to prey upon the citizens of Brunswick County, we’re going to do everything we can to lock you up,” Ingram told WWAY-TV. “I made sure ahead of time, that we had adequate space for anybody that wanted to try that.”
Four people are facing charges. Two men, 25-year-old Dashaun Smith and 30-year-old Brandon Bellamy are both facing charges of possession of burglary tools and break and/or enter at Tommy's Mini Mart in Leland. Both men are being held under a $20,000 bond, WWAY-TV said. Two other men - 21-year-old Devin Harris and 18-year-old Justice Harris are charged with break and/or enter a motor vehicle. They're being held on under a $5,000 bond.
Ingram cautioned residents against returning to protect their property. If you're worried, he told WWAY-TV, law enforcement is working hard in the dangerous conditions to protect what they can. Your possessions aren't worth risking your life.
RAW VIDEO | Hurricane Florence batters Carolina coast
As of 2 p.m., Hurricane Florence was sitting around 35 miles west-southwest of Wilmington, N.C., and about 35 miles east-northeast of Myrtle Beach, S.C., and moving westward at about 5 mph. It's picked up speed slightly since the 11 a.m. when it was moving at just 3 mph.
Life-threatening storm surge and flooding are still expected to affect the coastal Carolinas throughout the weekend. Hurricane-force winds (74-plus mph) extend out from the storm's eyewall about 35 miles and tropical storm-force winds (up to 73 mph) extend out 170 miles.