City prepares to open emergency shelters ahead of weekend's winter storm

City prepares to open emergency shelters ahead of weekend's winter storm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As the Carolinas brace for a powerful winter storm, the city of Charlotte is preparing to open emergency shelters for families stuck in the cold.

A shelter is set to open at the Grady Cole Center in uptown Charlotte.

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The Grady Cole Center will open Saturday at 3 p.m. and may stay open as late as Monday afternoon, but it will depend on the weather.

"This shelter will be operational as long as we need to meet those needs,” said Hannah Pannico, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management.

On Saturday, people were setting up inside the center and taking care of last-minute preparations before opening the doors.

The county said many of the current shelters are already near capacity and they want to make sure people have access to a warm place to stay throughout the storm.

The storm could bring power outages and leave many in the cold.

"We do have plans in place should we need to open up a shelter of that nature,” Pannico said. “We have pre-identified sites."

Duke Energy officials say they are expecting more than half a million power outages in the Carolinas, and more than 8,700 workers are already on standby, ready to respond once conditions are safe.

Animal Care and Control will also be on site to help people's pets.

Volunteers will also be walking through the community Saturday and Sunday to encourage homeless people and families to go to a shelter.

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Emergency management said up to 225 people can stay at the Grady Cole Emergency Shelter, and if it fills up with couples and families, there are other locations that will open up.

"If we reach capacity at this specific space, we have other locations in mind, so essentially, we won't be turning anybody away," Pannico said.

The Charlotte Area Transportation System will also be providing free transportation to anyone in the area needing a ride to the existing and overflow shelters.

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