09/14/05 — Few families there now, but they are ready

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Few families there now, but they are ready

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on September 14, 2005 1:49 PM

With Hurricane Ophelia approaching eastern North Carolina, several Wayne County families took refuge in Red Cross shelters as a precaution.

The Wayne County Chapter of the American Red Cross opened three shelters at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Spring Creek High School, Southern Wayne High School and Goldsboro Middle School.

At Spring Creek, shelter manager Charles King said that people started coming in right after the shelter opened. He said there were 11 residents during the night.

"Some of them left this morning to go to work," he said. "We checked to see what the weather was going to be like before they would leave." Some people are remaining in the shelter throughout the day.

"I talked to one man who came in and he'd been in a hurricane before and he told me that every time he sees a hurricane or bad weather coming, he heads for a shelter," said King. "It makes people feel safe knowing that the shelter is open and they can come and just relax and not have to worry about anything."

Duplin County authorities reported 34 people taking advantage of the shelters opened at several of that county's schools.

Elido Rodriguez and another relative arrived at the Spring Creek shelter when it opened Tuesday night. They live in Seven Springs and he said they were afraid to stay in their home last night. Although he hasn't been through a hurricane before, Rodriguez said has seen the damage that recent Hurricane Katrina caused and he didn't want to take any chances.

Rodriguez said that as soon as the hurricane has passed and it's safe to leave the Red Cross shelter, he and his relative will go home.

Another family staying in the shelter was Maria Tavino and her 12-year-old son, Alfredo Vasquez, and eight-year-old nephew, Anthony Castaneda. They also said they will stay until it's safe to go home.

King said the shelter provides a safe place to stay and sleep. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are also provided.

"We have nurses and mental health people here in case they are needed," he said. Each shelter has eight Red Cross volunteers to help those seeking refuge.

King said those going to the shelter are encouraged to take snacks (the shelter will also provide three snacks a day), water, soft drinks, bedding and any medicines they are taking. He said any medication that needs to be kept cold will be refrigerated.

They are not allowed to take pets (only service animals are permitted), explosives, firearms or knives.

Teresa Williams, disaster services director, said Southern Wayne had a minimal number of people seeking shelter there.

"But we are starting to get calls in the office this morning asking where our shelters are," she said. "We opened the shelters last night because the storm was on track for the coast and the winds were expected to start blowing here last night. Then the storm stalled.

"We wanted to make sure anybody who needed to leave home had a place to go before the storm hit. We erred on the side of caution."

Mrs. Williams said the plan right now is to have the shelters remain open until Thursday morning.

While the county's shelters are open, the Red Cross office is providing 24-hour support.