Plan ahead for shelter stays

Kanapaha Middle School served as a shelter in the aftermath of Hurricane Frances in 2004. North Central Florida has plenty of shelters for those displaced by storms.

Gainesville Sun file photo
Published: Thursday, June 1, 2006 at 1:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 1, 2006 at 1:34 p.m.

While most people fleeing a hurricane or storm surge find refuge with friends or relatives, some don't have a safe place to go and must rely on a public shelter.

Fortunately, North Central Florida has plenty of shelters — risk, host, special-needs and some pet-friendly.

Risk shelters are all at schools, which are sturdily built and tend to be located in population centers. They are chosen because of their ability to protect people from flooding caused by surges or rainfall, high winds and hazardous materials.

Host shelters house people who are fleeing a storm elsewhere, and can be churches or other schools that do not pass federal guidelines to be risk shelters.

Special-needs shelters are equipped to handle people who must use medical devices such as oxygen tanks, wheelchairs or have some sort of physical or mental impairment. Those people must bring their own caregiver, though, since there are no specially trained volunteers to offer health care.

It is important that if a person has a special need, he or she should register with their county emergency management office early so they can be evacuated to those shelters in advance.

Eshanne Anderson, emergency services director for the American Red Cross North Florida chapter — which covers eight counties — said it is extremely important that everyone going to shelters bring their own bedding — sheets, pillows, blankets — and personal items.

“They could be there for a week; they need to be prepared for that,” she said.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management suggests among the items they should pack are rain gear and extra clothing, particularly sturdy shoes. Few shelters supply cots, so people should bring their own or at least a chaise lounge. Pack a supply of personal hygiene items — toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant and small first aid kit — and bring things to amuse yourself or your children, including books, games and playing cards. A flashlight will come in handy at night. If people bring a radio or iPod, be sure to bring earphones.

While the Red Cross provides meals-ready-to-eat, snacks and water, David Donnelly, assistant director for emergency management in Alachua County, encourages people to bring their own food in coolers and smaller bottles of water. Freezing those bottles will help keep food cool. Shelters have kitchens for warming up food or baby formula.

Items not allowed in shelters are alcoholic beverages, weapons or pets.

Regarding pets, Anderson said, “We are trying to figure something out that is equitable."

“People care for their pets, they don’t want to leave them. I was in Mississippi (during Katrina) and some people didn't make it through because they couldn't bring their pets with them,” and stayed in dangerous situations, she said.

Anderson said she is seeking places that fulfill requirements to be risk shelters that have an adjacent building that can house animals.

“I want to talk to the College of Veterinary Medicine, local vets, people who are in charge of pets. I want to partner with them to help us find a solution,” she said.

Donnelly said, “As with all shelters, we would announce openings and locations at the time of a storm. This would include general population, special-needs and pet-friendly. We would encourage pet owners to identify the best location for them and their pet. That may be a hotel, friend or relative's house or a pet-friendly shelter.

“Our policy is that we will provide for any pets brought to any shelter. However, their owners must bring them in a carrier with items on the list (found at the National Hurricane Center's Web site at the "Be Prepared" tab) but that does not ensure that their pets will be at the same campus as them. The pets would likely be transported to Animal Services or another location,” he said.

Ron Mills, who has been Gilchrist County's emergency management chief for three years, said, “We do provide an area near a shelter where people can bring their animals, in their own cages. Their care is their responsibility.”

Other counties may have their own arrangements and pet owners should call emergency management to find out what those are.

Florida last year passed a law barring sex offenders and predators from public shelters. Registered sex offenders and those on probation should call their emergency management office to find out where they can go.

Donnelly said historically people stay at shelters for less than a week, and most only for a day or two.

“They are anxious to get home. But if they get home and their house is gone, then we make longer-stay arrangements, such as putting them up in a hotel room,” he added.

Shelter residents are free to come and go, as long as they sign in and out he said.

So far none of the shelters have permanent generators, something Donnelly said is being worked on by the Legislature, at least for the special-needs shelters where air-conditioning has more importance.

Marina Blomberg can be reached at (352) 374-5025 or

Shelters close by

The following is a list of places that serve as emergency shelters in the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster. Each county department of emergency management will identify which shelters will be open, as well as which are special-needs or pet-friendly. Departments broadcast this information through various media, including television, radio, newspapers and Web sites. People seeking shelter should contact their county office (at the phone numbers provided) to get information.

Alachua County


Alachua Elementary, 13800 NW 152nd Place, Alachua

Mebane Middle School, 16401 NW 140th St., Alachua

Santa Fe High School, 16331 U.S. 441, Alachua

W. W. Irby Elementary, 13505 NW 140th St., Alachua

Archer School, 14533 SW 170th St., Archer

Bishop Middle School, 1901 NE 9th St., Gainesville

Buchholz High School, 5510 NW 27th Ave., Gainesville

Duval Elementary, 2106 NE 8th Ave., Gainesville

Eastside High School, 1201 SE 43rd St., Gainesville

Foster Elementary, 3800 NW 6th St., Gainesville

Fort Clarke Middle School, 9301 NW 23rd Ave., Gainesville

Gainesville High School, 1900 NW 13th St., Gainesville

Glen Springs Elementary, 2826 NW 31st Ave., Gainesville

Hidden Oak Elementary, 9205 NW 23rd Ave., Gainesville

Holland Law Center UF

Idylwild Elementary, 4601 SW 20th Terrace, Gainesville

Finley Elementary, 1912 NW 5th Ave., Gainesville

Kanapaha Middle School, 5005 SW 75th St., Gainesville

Kimball Wiles Elementary, 4601 SW 75th St., Gainesville

Lake Forest Elementary, 4401 SE 4th Ave., Gainesville

Lawton Chiles Elementary, 2525 Schoolhouse Road, Gainesville

Lincoln Middle School, 1001 SE 12th St., Gainesville

Littlewood Elementary, 812 NW 34th St., Gainesville

Metcalfe Elementary, 1205 NE 18th St., Gainesville

Norton Elementary, 2200 NW 45th Ave., Gainesville

Prairie View Elementary, 1700 SE 35th Ave., Gainesville

Rawlings Elementary, 3500 NE 15th St., Gainesville

Westwood Middle School, 3215 NW 15th Ave., Gainesville

Williams Elementary, 4601 SW 75th St., Gainesville

Talbot Elementary, 5701 NW 43rd St., Gainesville

Santa Fe Community College, 3000 NW 83rd St., Gainesville

Terwilliger Elementary, 301 NW 62nd St., Gainesville

Hawthorne High School, 21403 SE 69th Ave., Hawthorne

Shell Elementary, 21633 SE 65th Ave., Hawthorne

Spring Hill Middle School, 1015 North Main St., High Springs

Newberry Elementary, 25705 SW 15th Ave., Newberry

Newberry High School, 400 SW 258th St., Newberry

Oak View Middle School, 203 SW 250th St., Newberry

Little Hall UF

Newins-Ziegler Hall UF

Norman Hall UF

Reitz Union UF

Weil Hall UF

Weimer Hall UF

Turlington Hall UF

Waldo Community School, 150 NW Line Ave., Waldo

Bradford County


Special-needs shelter is at Southside Elementary School, 823 E. Stanbury St.

Other shelters are:

Bradford High School, 581 N. Temple Ave.

Bradford Middle School, 527 N. Orange St.

Starke Elementary School, 1000 Weldon St.

Lawtey Community School, N. Park Street and U.S. 441

Brooker Elementary School, 18551 Charlotte Ave. (County Road 18)

Hampton Elementary School, County Road 221 and CR 18

Clay County


Keystone Heights High School is the only shelter in the western quadrant of Clay County. It is located at 900 SW Orchid Ave.

The others are:

Clay High School, 2025 State Road 16 West, Green Cove Springs

Rideout Elementary, 3065 Apalachicola Boulevard, Middleburg

Lake Asbury Elementary, 2901 Sandridge Road, Green Cove Springs

Orange Park High School, 2300 Kingsley Avenue, Orange Park

Argyle Elementary, 2625 Spencer Plantation Boulevard, Orange Park

Clay Hill Elementary, 6345 County Road 218, Jacksonville

Montclair Elementary, 2398 Moody Avenue, Orange Park

The special-needs shelter is the Thrasher-Horne Building which is located on the campus of the St. Johns River Community College, 283 College Drive, Orange Park.

Dixie County


Emergency Services Director Chad Reed has four shelters, which open sequentially as they fill up. Each one is capable of handling special needs. Executive assistant Lynda Malloy said there are plenty of volunteers available to staff the shelters as needs arise, with home health personnel ready to provide special needs assistance.

Shelters in order of opening are:

Old Town Elementary School, 221 SE 136th Ave., Old Town

Ruth Rains Middle School, 981 SE County Road 351, Cross City

Anderson Elementary School, 815 SE CR 351, Cross City

Dixie County High School, 16077 SE U.S. 19, Cross City

Gilchrist County


Bell High School, 930 S. Main St., Bell

Trenton Elementary School, 1350 SW State Road 26,

The special-needs shelter is at the Health Academy on the Bell High School campus.

Levy County


Primary shelters, which open first:

Chiefland Elementary School, 1205 NW 4th Ave.

Williston Elementary School, 801 S. Main St.

Bronson Elementary School, State Road 24 (this is also special-needs shelter)

Secondary shelters to open when the primary shelters are full:

Bronson High School, 1 Eagle Drive

Williston High School, 427 W. Noble Ave.

Chiefland Middle School, 811 NW 4th Drive

Putnam County


Red Cross-certified shelters:

Browning-Pearce Elementary School, 100 Bear Blvd., San Mateo

Ochwilla Elementary School, 299 N. State Road 21, Hawthorne

Q.I. Roberts Middle School, 901 State Road 100, Florahome

Interlachen Elementary School, 251 S. State Road 315, Interlachen

Classified as "shelters of last resort” are:

Jenkins Middle School, 1100 N. 19th St., Palatka

Palatka High School, 302 Mellon Road, Palatka

Middleton-Burney Elementary School, 1020 Huntington Road, Crescent City

Crescent City Junior/Senior High School, 2201 S. U.S. 17, Crescent City

Special-needs shelter is Kelley Smith Elementary School in Palatka; must be registered beforehand.

Union County


Union County High School, 1000 N. Lake Avenue

It can house close to 3,000 people

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