Natchez shelters fill with evacuees

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 31, 2005

NATCHEZ – More than 900 people are checked into the Red Cross’s four Natchez shelters. And, though no one is happy about the circumstances that brought them here, all are pleased with their hosts.

“We’re being treated well,” Janet Gaubert, of Ponchatoula, La., said from the Steckler Center shelter. “If I could get the kids to stop running over the beds, I’d be happy. They’ve done a good job and I appreciate it.”

The one kid she doesn’t have to worry about entertaining is her son, Adam Puckett. He kills time playing video games on a 27-inch TV, something he said he wasn’t prepared to give to Katrina.

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“It may blow my house down, but it ain’t taking my TV with it,” he said.

Most had similar praise for the job the city and county have done in the emergency, a good thing since most of the visitors are expected to stay all week.

The police have drawn praise for directing lost souls to the shelters.

One man got a ride to the Parkway Baptist Church shelter after he docked his houseboat upriver from the casino.

After drifting his three-johnboat vessel from Missouri to New Orleans – a 12-month endeavor – Dayrel Crowl was on his way back when the hurricane scared him to shore.

“I dialed 911 from down by the casino,” he said. “I didn’t have a ride so they sent a police car down and brought me here. That was really good of the police.”

He said he is very happy with everything about the shelter, but admits he’s worried about the new 25-horsepower outboard he just got.

“I was gonna stay with my boat, til I got thinking, well, if I die, the boat’s not gonna do me no good anyway.”

It’s only one day into what Red Cross Disaster Committee Chairman Don Winters estimates could be a week-long ordeal for the evacuees, but he said things are going smoothly so far. He said Entergy had put the shelters on a priority list for power repair and transportation problems could affect the food supply in the coming days until the electricity returns. Overall, though, he grades his team highly.

“I’m extremely proud of the volunteers…” he said. “They’re doing a tremendous job.”

The Garcias, of New Orleans, have evacuated many times for hurricanes, going every which way, usually sleeping “on the street.” But not in Natchez.

“This is the first time we are received well,” Gilberto Garcia said. “There are very good people in Natchez. Natchez is in my heart for all my life.”