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Throughout The Area, Shelters From The Storm

Publication: The East Hampton Press
By Virginia Garrison   Aug 29, 2011 10:24 AM
Aug 30, 2011 6:40 PM

About 60 people took shelter at the Montauk Playhouse Community Center Saturday night, according to Christine Schnell, one of many volunteers from the Montauk Fire Department’s Ladies Auxiliary, which ran the operation. At about noon on Sunday, people who stayed overnight had mostly left, except for about 10 who were signing out and waiting for rides.

On Saturday, Joyce Marino and Tricia Cusimano, two auxiliary volunteers, had gone out shopping for food, and an unidentified man donated more provisions, like hot dogs, pickles, and potato and macaroni salad. Fortunately, Ms. Cusimano said Saturday, among the auxiliary members were two, Barbara Grimes and Phyllis Morgano, who are trained in running a shelter.

“Do you know where the Montauk Manor is?” one waylaid visitor asked Saturday afternoon. About 20 people came in to inspect the accommodations, or ask questions, before those who did settle in the Playhouse arrived Saturday night, most of them from 5 p.m. onward.

Cots were set up in the gym on the building’s second floor, and were available downstairs in case the power went out and there were people who could not make it up without an elevator. A reclining chair was also available in case someone could not sleep on a cot, Ms. Cusimano said Saturday.

Electrical power stayed intact, Ms. Schnell said Sunday, except for a minute or two when the lights blinked out.

Parked outside the Playhouse, always, was a Red Cross van containing cots, blankets and personal hygiene kits. After setting up for 30 people, auxiliary members unloaded what they needed as necessary as people came in Saturday, Ms. Schnell said. They were packing it back up—it took three volunteers just to refold one cot and stuff it into its canvas bag, Ms. Cusimano said—on Sunday.

Among the people who stayed overnight were 10 young people from Ukraine who work at the Montauk Yacht Club and live at the Malibu Motel close to the ocean in downtown Montauk. Ms. Schnell said they helped out with all the work that needed to be done at the center, even as she was making calls on her cellular phone to recruit more volunteers to break the settlement down.

Among those awaiting a ride home were two young men from Ukraine, Anatorii Keykov and Mykola Dodiak, as well as Eoghan Young of Ireland. Mr. Dodiak said their stay had been “very good” despite their fears for the worst, since they arrived without blankets and pillows. They were waiting for a Montauk Yacht Club shuttle to pick them up, while Mr. Young, who has lived and worked in Montauk but was just “passing through” this time for a visit, was going to go stay with friends.

Ms. Schnell said that in addition to young people like them, there had been families with children who “weren’t sure they were safe” at home, some of them local and living in apartments, as well as at least one elderly person living alone. An apparently homeless man spent at least 24 hours there.

The Playhouse shelter took pets, which were kept in a separate indoor area. Ms. Schnell said that perhaps “a couple” of animals had spent the night. The last family left the shelter at about 2 p.m. on Sunday, Ms. Marino said.

According to Sam Kille, the regional communications director for the American Red Cross, 10 shelters, all of which had closed by Monday night, were set up countywide, and 2,200 county residents took refuge in them. The Montauk Playhouse was supported with 100 “prestaged” cots, but was not a Red Cross shelter.

The Red Cross haven in East Hampton Town was set up at East Hampton High School. Richard Burns, the East Hampton School District’s interim superintendent, said about 155 people stayed at the shelter, which was open from early Saturday until Sunday evening. With a lot of help from seven custodians, he said, cots were set up in the gym, and evacuees signed in at the school’s main entrance. According to East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, six people requiring “extra care and attention,” such as oxygen, went instead to a critical care center at the East Hampton Town Senior Citizens Center, which was run by Diane Patrizio, executive director of the town’s Human Services Department. Mr. Stanzione credited her with having done “an outstanding job.” The handful who stayed were among about 75 people on an emergency preparedness list who were called by the town to see if they needed help, he said. Most were released to relatives by Sunday afternoon, Mr. Stanzione said.

Back at the high school, Mr. Burns said, L.C. Nelson and other members of the custodial staff, including some who speak Spanish, soothed and otherwise took care of “the social and emotional well-being of the people who were there.” In addition to two Red Cross workers, there were two emergency medical technicians, Tanya Gregg and Samone Johnson, who also work for the district. “One of the unsung heroes” of the effort was Bruce Bates, the emergency management coordinator for the town, according to Mr. Burns. “He knew the right people to call and the right buttons to push.” Spencer Baird was the shelter manager.

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