The 753 people sheltering at Ridgeland High School in Jasper County to wait out Hurricane Matthew are doing their best to stay dry Friday night, as water seeps under doors and drips from the building’s ceiling.
Armed with mops, evacuees spent the evening shuffling the water back out the way it came.
“We are mopping because no one is doing it and there’s a two-year-old sleeping right here,” evacuee Tonya Blake said.
Elsewhere in the building soaked ceiling tiles buckled from moisture and dripped above the heads of evacuees, leading Valeda Current to question the safety of the shelter.
“I don’t think it’s safe for us to be on the floor like this,” Current, also an evacuee, said. “There’s too much water. If it keeps coming in we will have a swimming pool.”
Some in the building were relocated from one of the school’s soggiest wings to a dryer area, Carl Spatham of the American Red Cross Disaster Services said.
The school has been set up by the Red Cross as a shelter for evacuees. Red Cross officials started moving the elderly into hallways Friday as they prepare for the arrival of the outermost bands of the massive storm.
The hallways are the safest place as storm winds blow into the region, Spatham said Friday afternoon. Cots have been reserved for the elderly and those with medical needs.
People carried what they could as they waited in a long line to hunker down in the hallway late afternoon Friday. Children ran around skipping unaware of what the next 20 hours could bring.
Keith Garvin hovered by the entrance to the shelter.
“It is a godsend,” Garvin said about the shelter.
Garvin, of Ridgeland, said couldn’t afford to travel inland. It was the “weatherman” who convinced him to leave his home, he said.
“I trusted his judgment,” Garvin said.
Conditions at the shelter have been good, he said. “It is going as well as can be expected,” he said.
Just before 11 p.m. Friday the building still had power, though the lights did flicker earlier in the day.
The shelter can hold up to 1,200 people, but the doors will be locked as soon as roads become impassable, Spatham said.
“Things are going well,” he said. “People are getting three meals a day and they are being very respectful.”