18 Sep 1999

Floyd Filled Shelters
to the Rafters...

As more than 6,000 evacuees flooded into Brevard County shelters Tuesday, the leaders of the American Red Cross realized they had a problem. Too many folks coming and not enough people to help them
Some volunteers who had offered to manage shelters were fleeing Hurricane Floyd with 160,000 other county residents. Several shelters were full and food supplies were being spread as thinly as the volunteer corps.
Tuesday night might not have been very comfortable, but Brevard Red Cross officials kept their promise not to turn away anyone from a shelter. They did so by recruiting untrained people in the shelters and getting by with skelton crews. And if Floyd had been a direct hit, which could have kept evacuees in the shelters for several days, a secret weapon waited to replenish the dwindling food supply.

In Atlanta, drivers with trucks loaded with food and other necessities waited to hear whether they were needed. Once the storm had passed, they would have traveled down Interstate 75 to Florida's neediest areas. A spokeswoman for the Red Cross said the hardest part of it, especially in certain situations, is that it may be a little delayed arriving. Also, that the difficulty in getting supplies to Brevard highlights the importance of evacuees bringing as much of their own food, water and essentials as they can. She said that it is not so that the Red Cross won't have to provide it for them, but so they can get as comfortable as they can. Shelters are to be used as a last resort. They are not a resort. It's very uncomfortable.

Statewide, the Red Cross had more than 4,000 volunteers and paid workers. The Red Cross spokeswoman said that volunteers who have been through training are obviously preferred, but those who are pressed into service can be among the most valuable. For example, older children and teenagers often can entertain younger kids during the long, boring hours in a shelter. She said you'd be surprised how many volunteers on a regular basis that the Red Cross gets through this system. They realize how good it feels to help people, and they want to do it all the time.

Overall, Red Cross officials throughout Central Florida said they thought the shelter system worked well. With more than 20,000 people in shelters throughout the state, things went more smoothly than many had expected
Excerpts from article by Gwyneth K. Shaw of The Sentinel Staff, September 19, 1999

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