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Far From Florence: Former Norwalk Hospital Nurse Evacuates Before Hurricane Makes Landfall

Caron Balitsos (center) enjoys her escape from Florence's wrath at her brother's home in Norwalk. Photo Credit: Vira Mamchur Schwartz
The Outer Banks have long been a haven for Nutmeggers. Fortunately, Florence's most intense winds, rain and storm surge missed the barrier islands. Photo Credit: Vira Mamchur Schwartz

Judging by the number of OBX stickers spotted on cars, it’s fair to say that North Carolina’s Outer Banks are a popular escape destination for many in the area.

That was certainly the case for Caron Balitsos who has been making the 10-hour drive to Hatteras Island every summer for decades.

In fact, the former Norwalk Hospital ER nurse has moved to the Tar Heel state permanently, thanks to her love for the ocean and the slower pace of life down South.

And now it is that very ocean that has Balitsos back in Connecticut.

Heeding mandatory evacuation orders for her town located midway between Wilmington, N.C., and Myrtle Beach, S.C., Balitsos decided it wasn’t enough to just head inland to escape storm surge and floods. With her best friend and fellow Fairfield County transplant, she drove all the way to her former home state.

Florence was still a Category 3 hurricane when Baltisos left North Carolina in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Sept. 12 -- two days before it made landfall. The typical 10-hour drive turned into 13 by the time Balitsos  made it to her brother’s home in Norwalk.

Having lived through Hurrricane Matthew soon after relocating to North Carolina, Balitsos and her best friend couldn’t risk being stuck down South with his daughter’s wedding a week away in New York state.

“Most of the people I know left the area,” said Balitsos.

“Matthew (in 2016) as a (Category) 1 was rough, so hearing that Florence could come in as a 4 or 5, we couldn’t stay. All the bridges going in and out were completely closed then and this will be worse. We couldn’t risk not being able to get out. And if he missed his daughter’s wedding that would be a complete disaster!”

Even though Balitsos’ employer, a small local hospital in a low-lying area, was closed by governor’s orders, she nevertheless feels she perhaps should have remained, helping in some way.

"My heart is there," said Balitsos,  “and I take care of people, that’s what I do.”

Meanwhile, she will stay with family and friends and enjoy a wedding in the Finger Lakes region.

“I’m just hoping I have a roof left and that nothing went through my windows.”

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