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Red Cross

Shannon Oglesbee and her husband Mike evacuated from Surfside Beach ahead of Hurricane Florence. They found themselves waiting for the storm in Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School.

It isn’t Shannon Oglesbee’s first time dealing with a hurricane, but it is her first time dealing with a hurricane as a resident of a coastal city.

“It was really scary at first, hearing how big it was,” Oglesbee said.

She wanted to make sure, “that I and my husband were safe and out of the storm. We were safer finding somewhere inland.”

Several American Red Cross shelters have opened in The T&D Region in response to Hurricane Florence.

Red Cross spokesperson Cuthbert Langley said the evacuation shelters are meant to provide a safe place for evacuees.

“These are meant to get people through landfall,” Langley said.

There is ample space at the shelters.

“If the need is there to open additional shelters, we work with our partners to determine which shelters they want us to open,” Langley said.

“We want to be sure we have enough space for everybody who needs it so we’re not providing cots at this time, but we’re asking people to bring their sleeping bags, pillows and blankets,” Langley said.

There is no timetable for when the shelters will close.

“Once the storm hits and we know a better idea of which areas are impacted, then we can identify which shelters can be open for a longer term,” Langley said.

Rusty Poole, a volunteer at the shelter in O-W’s gym, said that the facility was housing between 30 and 40 people on Thursday, but can handle many more.

Poole said O-W offers certain features that are important.

“As far as safety’s concerned, we have a member of the Orangeburg County’s Sheriff’s office 24 hours a day,” she said.

“We also have a crew working in the kitchen in the canteen area, and they have prepared some hot meals for us,” including breakfast, lunch and dinner, Poole noted. The shelter has received donations of snack food items and has been provided with snacks and bottled water from the Red Cross.

Along with food and water, Poole stated that the high school offers occupants a place to manage their hygiene.

“We have showers, we have bathroom toilet facilities. It’s comforting to know that you have that ability to keep clean,” Poole said.

Like Langley, Poole echoed the message for occupants to bring bedding. Poole also encouraged those coming to the shelters to bring their own toiletries.

“You feel a lot better when you can brush your teeth and wash your face and take care of your personal needs,” she said.

Oglesbee stated that the volunteers at the shelter are “really awesome and so kind.”

“I’m very grateful because I don’t know where we’d be without them,” Oglesbee said.

“This is our first time, so we had so many questions and needed so much help and they’ve just provided as if we weren’t a bother to them,” she said.

“They’ve been very comforting.”

Fernando, who did not want to give his last name, is also staying at the shelter with his eight family members. They evacuated from Charleston.

“We left Charleston because we have kids. We were thinking of the best decision for the kids,” Fernando said.

He is not sure how long his family will be in the shelter, but he hopes to return home to Charleston in four days.

Fernando said there was relief in arriving at the shelter.

“We’re fine, we’re good now,” Fernando said.

His children have been comfortable, thanks mostly to their electronic devices.

“So, the important thing is that we are together and that we are safe,” he said.

Fernando said the shelter has been a big help.

“We thank the Red Cross for the people here at this high school,” Fernando said.

There are six shelters in The T&D Region:

• Orangeburg Wilkinson High School, 601 Bruin Parkway, Orangeburg

• Lake Marion High School, 3656 Tee Vee Road, Santee

• Hunter-Kinard-Tyler Elementary School, 7066 Norway Road, Neeses

• Branchville High/Lockett Elementary School, 1349 Dorange Road, Branchville

• Calhoun County High School, 150 Saints Ave., St. Matthews

• Voorhees College, 5573 Voorhees Road, Denmark

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Contact the writer: bharris@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5516.

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Staff Writer

Bradley Harris is a Government and Sports Reporter. The Irmo, SC native is a 2018 graduate of Claflin University and recipient of the 2018 South Carolina Press Association Collegiate Journalist of the Year Award.

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