Originally created 09/24/05

Evacuees head to area as storm nears



Red Cross and church volunteers scrambled to prepare shelter for as many as 100 Hurricane Rita evacuees Friday afternoon at Wesley United Methodist Church in Evans.

At 3 p.m., pastors at the church received a call from the Red Cross to begin preparations to shelter evacuees and have dinner prepared for as many as 100 people by 6 p.m.

Pastors immediately sent out an e-mail to members requesting assistance and members responded quickly, said Pat Williams, the pastor for ministry and care. Church members hurriedly cooked spaghetti and moved supplies including soap, medicine and toys for children before evacuees were to arrive at 6 p.m.

"The Red Cross let me know before noon today we were on standby, so I was able to get my leadership ready by noon," Ms. Williams said.

"(We will care for these people) as long as it takes, but we have been told it will probably be two to three days," she said.

Red Cross officials received calls that a group of 63 evacuees were in the area Friday morning.

This group might be related to the Celestine family of Orange, Texas, who arrived at the shelter on North Belair Road just after 6 p.m. The Celestines said about 50 members of their family and church were headed to the area but had not arrived at the shelter as of 7 p.m.

On Thursday evening, these six members of the Celestine family arrived in the Augusta area looking for shelter.

Told by local hotels they were not accepting Rita evacuees because federal money had only been released for Katrina evacuees, the Celestines stayed with family in North Augusta, they said.

Federal money to reimburse hotels cannot be released until the disaster strikes, explained Ray Edgar, the director of emergency management with the Augusta-Richmond County Red Cross.

Evacuees eligible for reimbursement cannot be known until it is known which areas suffered devastation, he said.

"When we heard there was going to be a storm , we got out," said Cathey Celestine, whose husband , Michael ; children Michael Jr., Jeremy and Lakeshia ; and daughter-in-law Ursula accompanied her.

The mother of three said the family left at 1 a.m. Central time Wednesday, and didn't arrive in Augusta until 5 p.m. Thursday.

"I didn't want to experience the wind, the rain, the power outages," she said. "I didn't want to go through all of that. I'm relieved we're out."

The family was able to bring some clothes with them but little else.

The parents and Michael Jr. each own a home within 11 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. Their hometown of Orange lies 15 miles east of Port Arthur, the city where Hurricane Rita was expected to make landfall.

Mr. Edgar said Augusta is preparing for more evacuees if necessary.

Nursing home patients and other special-needs evacuees are arriving by plane at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta. The first 500 will be transported to Toccoa, Ga., after they are evaluated for their medical needs. After that, any additional evacuees will be bused to the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center.

Should that happen, Mr. Edgar said, the Wesley church shelter evacuees will move to the civic center to consolidate resources.

Reach J. Scott Trubey at (706) 868-1222,

ext. 109, or ccnt@augustachronicle.com.Body CopyBy J. Scott Trubey

Columbia County Bureau

Red Cross and church volunteers scrambled to prepare shelter for as many as 100 Hurricane Rita evacuees Friday afternoon at Wesley United Methodist Church in Evans.

At 3 p.m., pastors at the church received a call from the Red Cross to begin preparations to shelter evacuees and have dinner prepared for as many as 100 people by 6 p.m.

Pastors immediately sent out an e-mail to members requesting assistance and members responded quickly, said Pat Williams, the pastor for ministry and care. Church members hurriedly cooked spaghetti and moved supplies including soap, medicine and toys for children before evacuees were to arrive at 6 p.m.

"The Red Cross let me know before noon today we were on standby, so I was able to get my leadership ready by noon," Ms. Williams said.

"(We will care for these people) as long as it takes, but we have been told it will probably be two to three days," she said.

Red Cross officials received calls that a group of 63 evacuees were in the area Friday morning.

This group might be related to the Celestine family of Orange, Texas, who arrived at the shelter on North Belair Road just after 6 p.m. The Celestines said about 50 members of their family and church were headed to the area but had not arrived at the shelter as of 7 p.m.

On Thursday evening, these six members of the Celestine family arrived in the Augusta area looking for shelter.

Told by local hotels they were not accepting Rita evacuees because federal money had only been released for Katrina evacuees, the Celestines stayed with family in North Augusta, they said.

Federal money to reimburse hotels cannot be released until the disaster strikes, explained Ray Edgar, the director of emergency management with the Augusta-Richmond County Red Cross.

Evacuees eligible for reimbursement cannot be known until it is known which areas suffered devastation, he said.

"When we heard there was going to be a storm , we got out," said Cathey Celestine, whose husband , Michael ; children Michael Jr., Jeremy and Lakeshia ; and daughter-in-law Ursula accompanied her.

The mother of three said the family left at 1 a.m. Central time Wednesday, and didn't arrive in Augusta until 5 p.m. Thursday.

"I didn't want to experience the wind, the rain, the power outages," she said. "I didn't want to go through all of that. I'm relieved we're out."

The family was able to bring some clothes with them but little else.

The parents and Michael Jr. each own a home within 11 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. Their hometown of Orange lies 15 miles east of Port Arthur, the city where Hurricane Rita was expected to make landfall.

Mr. Edgar said Augusta is preparing for more evacuees if necessary.

Nursing homes patients and other special-needs evacuees are arriving by plane at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta. The first 500 will be transported to Toccoa, Ga., after they are evaluated for their medical needs. After that, any additional evacuees will be bused to the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center.

Should that happen, Mr. Edgar said, the Wesley church shelter evacuees will move to the civic center to consolidate resources.

Reach J. Scott Trubey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 109, or ccnt@augustachronicle.com.



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