Thousands still in shelters after Hurricane Matthew

When the Smith clan got orders to evacuate their home in Ellabell on the outskirt of Savannah, they had just enough time to grab a day’s worth of clothing and toiletry items. They packed their belongings along with seven adults and more than two dozen children in a 15-passenger van and an SUV and headed north out of harm’s way of Hurricane Matthew.

The group managed to get the last remaining cots at the Red Cross shelter at the Hephzibah Children’s Home campus in Macon late Friday afternoon.

Matthew’s come and gone but all roads leading home are closed to the family which is looking at another two days - at least - of life in a shelter

“All power’s out everywhere,” Sandra Smith said. “It’s still raining severely there.”

The Smiths are among some 6,000 people who remained in 29 Red Cross shelters across Georgia Saturday and are likely to be logging more time in the relief shelters as emergency crews deal with downed power lines and trees and flooded roads leading to the Georgia coast. Even as families try to head home, authorities are blocking their path until the post-Matthew mess gets sorted out and cleaned up.

“It doesn’t matter if you live there or are visiting, no one’s getting into the neighborhoods because they’re afraid of looting,” Smith said she was told.

Saturday afternoon, Smith and several other family members headed out to nearby stores to find clothing for the children who range in age from 17-years-old to two weeks old. They’re also on the hunt for diapers and formula, items that were in short supply at the shelter.

“The kids really only had one outfit,” Smith said. “We brought just enough for a day or two. We were thinking we’d be going back (by now). We didn’t realize that with the damages from Matthew, we were going to be stuck here for a while. We’re not prepared.”

While the Smiths make-do in Macon, they’re resting a little easier after finding out from neighbors who stayed behind that their homes are relatively unscathed despite the power outages and downed trees and heavy rain.

One set of the family who lives in Hinesville may still be on pins-and-needles though.

“We dont know about Hinesville because it took a direct hit,” Smith said.

For the most part, though, the Red Cross expects many people to stay in the shelters for the rest of the weekend and possibly the early part of next week, said Divina Mims-Puckett, Georgia Red Cross spokeswoman.

All told, some 18,450 people in four states affected by Matthew woke up Saturday morning in 183 Red Cross and community evacuation shelters seeking refuge from Hurricane Matthew. Georgia’s evacuation shelters are providing more than 26,000 meals and snacks.

“We’re just trying to take care of folks as they remain in the shelter for the next couple of days,” Mims-Puckett said.

Here’s a list of the Red Cross Shelters in Georgia and the number of evacuees in each.

AUGUSTA

Academy of Richmond County, 356

Butler High School, 471 FULL

Glenn Hills High School, 605 FULL

Henry H. Brigham Community Center, FULL

Josey High School, 250

Laney High School, 342

May Park Community Center, 0

Technical Career Magnet School, 268

Trinity On The Hill United Methodist, 219 FULL

BYRON

Byron Fire Station #1, 11

CITY OF DOUGLAS

Central Square Complex, 286

DUBLIN

Dublin High School, 579

East Laurens High School, East Dublin, 181

FORT VALLEY

Peach County Fire Station # 6, 39

LOUISVILLE

Jefferson Recreation Center, 19

MACON

East Macon Recreation Center, 148 FULL

Hephzibah Childrens Home, 124 FULL

Macon City Auditorium 16

North Macon Park Community Center, 161 FULL

MOULTRIE

First Baptist Church, 110 FULL

SWAINSBORO

Swainsboro Recreation Department, 230 FULL

THOMASVILLE

New Covenant Church, 0

TIFTON

Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College- Gressette Gym,152

First United Methodist, 50 FULL

Tift County Recreation Department, 297 FULL

VALDOSTA

Crosspoint Church,143 - FULL

Park Avenue United Methodist Church, 202 - FULL

WAYCROSS

Ware County High School, 418

Waycross Middle School, Waycross, 309 - FULL