Shelter at MHS Keeps Hundreds Safe

Volunteers for The American Red Cross help unload a trailer filled with cots.

As preparation for Hurricane Irene, the Milford Senior High School became an emergency shelter for residents in the surrounding areas to assemble during the storm. The shelter established by The American Red Cross became temporary housing for 408 individuals from Friday, August 26, when it opened its doors, until Sunday, August 28 when the State of Emergency declaration by Governor Jack Markell was lifted.

The high school evolved into an emergency shelter overnight as the gymnasium was filled with cots for people to sleep on, the cafeteria was used as a mess hall and several classrooms were used to house pets of those staying at the shelter. Across the state of Delaware an executive order by Governor Markell established the necessity for these shelters and offered safety for many who had nowhere to go during the storm.

Denise Jenkins of South Bowers and her 3-year-old daughter were one of the many families that stayed at the Milford High School during Hurricane Irene.

“It was very interesting,” commented Denise. “As for everyone handling stress I think it went very well. We had multiple tornado warnings while we were at the school but for the most part everyone stayed calm. “

Denise left her home on Friday, August 27 after Governor Markell issued a mandatory evacuation for anyone within 3/4 mile of any major body of water. When she arrived at the shelter on 9:30am there were already over 40 people there. By Friday night the shelter was already packed with over 400 individuals.

Denise commented that the main concern for everyone at the shelter was the condition of their house. Due to the driving ban, which was not lifted until Sunday afternoon, the individuals who stayed at the shelter could not leave even as the weather appeared to be getting better.

“I just hope I have a house to go home to,” commented Denise. “My three-year-old Maria was very scared last night and I hope we can get back to our home as soon as possible.”

Americorps, Air National Guard, Milford Police Department and the Kent County SPCA were all present to assist The American Red Cross during the storm.

“The shelter filled up in half a day,” commented Americorps volunteer Samantha Saladino. “The weather got pretty bad and there were limited cots. Luckily, the Army brought us additional cots that day.”

Shelter Manager Elizabeth Lush admits that is was scary at times and thanked the Delaware National Guard, Americorps and Milford Police Department for keeping everyone safe while they stayed at the shelter.

“It was challenging,” commented Elizabeth. “We did not lose electricity but no air conditioning was a problem with over 400 people sleeping in the gymnasium. We just continued to let the people in the shelter know that they were safe.”

After the State of Emergency was lifted on Sunday, families were able to return home to evaluate any damage done to their houses and property. The American Red Cross packed up the cots and the high school was returned to normal just in time to begin the new school year on Wednesday, August 31.