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Local shelter opens for Ida evacuees

Saturday, August 28, 2021
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Leader photos by NANCY BERGERON

Trinity United Methodist Church shelter manager Allen Tuten, center, gives directions to volunteer Earl James Raue, left, while at right, volunteers Tracey McNeil and Brycen McNeil begin to assembly a cot. The shelter opened Saturday for Hurricane Ida evacuees.

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Brycen McNeil assembles a cot Saturday morning during at a community shelter set up at Ruston’s Trinity United Methodist Church for Hurricane Ida evacuees.

Volunteers spent part of this morning setting up a shelter in Ruston’s Trinity United Methodist Church gym for evacuees of Hurricane Ida.

“We may have one (evacuee), none, or we may have 50. That’s an unknown,” shelter manager and church member Allen Tuten said.

The space is a community shelter, meaning it’s run by local volunteers and not the Red Cross.

“We’ve done this a number of times here at Trinity, so we can handle that part of it,” Tuten said. “As a community shelter, we can get this set up in an hour, hour and a half.”

None of the local evacuee shelters had planned to open because of COVID-19 considerations, but as Ida grew, so did concern among South Louisiana emergency preparedness officials that fleeing residents have a place to go.

“It went from no major congregate shelters to all out general population shelters,” Lincoln Parish Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Kip Franklin said Saturday.
Initially, cots were set up for about 50 people, but Franklin said the gym could probably handle 75 at a safe distance. The cots were spaced 6 feet apart on all sides.

The shelter opening marks the first time since Hurricane Issac in August 2012 that a local shelter has been activated for storm evacuees. During Hurricane Katrina, the Trinity shelter housed evacuees for a month.

Meantime, Ida continues to churn toward the Louisiana Gulf Coast with landfall predicted Sunday afternoon or evening. The National Hurricane Center says Ida is expected to be a Category 4 storm when it come ashore — 16 years to the day since Hurricane Katrina hit.

Ida is expected to track east of Lincoln Parish, but it still may bring rain and wind to the area.

Scattered showers and thunderstorms could begin as soon as Sunday afternoon, as the feeder bands from the hurricane begin to work their way northward, the National Weather Service said Saturday.

Tropical storm conditions – rain and winds ranging from 39-73 mph – are possible for the parish on Monday, the NWS forecasts show. The remnants of Ida should be out of the area by Monday night.