‘There’s nothing we can do’: Coastal residents seek shelter

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 31, 2005

NATCHEZ &045; Even the most optimistic couldn’t get the terrifying feeling out of the pit of their stomachs Sunday afternoon.

&uot;This is going to be the big one,&uot; New Orleans resident Arthur Perrot Jr. said from his blanket-sized territory at the Steckler Multipurpose Center.

&uot;But there’s nothing we can do. You just accept whatever comes your way. We aren’t going to like it.&uot;

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Perrot packed up his two grandsons, 13 and 7, at around 6 a.m. Sunday. They arrived at the Natchez shelter at 1 p.m.

The boys’ father, a New Orleans policeman, had to stay behind.

By Sunday evening, the Steckler Center was full, and evacuees seeking shelter were being directed to the Parkway Baptist Church.

Trinelle Taylor left her New Orleans suburb with a five-car caravan of 20 other people.

&uot;It’s such a strong hurricane, and it’s sort of guaranteed to come our way,&uot; she said. &uot;I’m kind of preparing myself for the worst and hoping for the best.&uot;

Joyce Daniels has only abandoned her New Orleans home for one other storm, Betsy in 1965.

A Category 3 storm when it hit New Orleans, Betsy left only the rooftop of her house above water.

&uot;I’m praying,&uot; Daniels said. &uot;Hard.&uot;

Daniels and friends Beverly Berria and Andrew LeBrane stopped in Natchez after leaving New Orleans at 5 a.m.

&uot;This is a Category 5,&uot; Berria said. &uot;I don’t think it’s the time to stay. It’s the time to leave.

&uot;I feel like when I go home my house is going to be flat down on the ground. In my mind I’m preparing myself for the worst.&uot;

Slidell resident Sherri Adler left town with her 2-year-old son Samuel when she couldn’t sleep. Samuel’s father stayed at home.

&uot;I wasn’t going to sit around and wait,&uot; she said. &uot;Hopefully my house doesn’t get covered with 20 feet of water. I rolled up the rugs and put everything as high as I could.&uot;

Adler, who left during last year’s Hurricane Ivan, said she was considering leaving the coastal area entirely.

Most of the people at the Natchez shelter are from the New Orleans area. Some planned to stay until Wednesday, others were hoping to leave as early as tonight.

The four designated shelters in Natchez can hold close to 1,000 people if necessary, shelter coordinator Don Winters said.

Once Steckler fills, emergency officials open Parkway Baptist Church, Community Chapel Church of God and Washington Baptist Church. If needed, several other churches can be opened.

The Red Cross has 500 comfort kits to distribute and a limited number of mats and cots.

Many staying at the Steckler Center had purchased air mattresses from the local Wal-Mart.

Volunteers prepare or donate food at the shelters. Six showers are available on a rotation basis at the Steckler Center.

In Concordia Parish, six people had checked into the shelter at the Community Center on Louisiana 15 in Ferriday by 5 p.m., but more were expected.

If needed Ferriday’s First Baptist Church will open for shelter.

Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said the Vidalia High School gymnasium may be opened up as well if there is sufficient need, though it will be only as a last resort because the gym is not air-conditioned.

Evacuees are encouraged to head farther north and west, but can take advantage of shelters in the parish, White said.

Volunteers were working Sunday to get the Community Center ready to house evacuees before opening the shelter in the afternoon.