Shelter opens for up to 125 at Buford High

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By Mark Manicone

As Hurricane Florence pounded the coast and inched inland Friday, Lancaster County Emergency Management and the Red Cross opened an evacuation shelter at Buford High School.
Leland Summers, a Red Cross volunteer and the shelter’s supervisor, urged residents to make the decision on seeking shelter before the storm worsens locally.
“Don’t wait to decide,” he said. “Go ahead and do what you need to do. If you feel you need to go to a shelter, go now. Don’t wait.”
Susan Aldridge and her family did exactly that, and were the first evacuees to arrive at the shelter, soon after it opened.
Aldridge, along with her 76-year-old mother, 13-year-old granddaughter and 10-year-old grandson, came from the Tradesville community to escape the storm.
“We live in a double-wide in the middle of the woods, and I didn’t want to take that chance,” she said. “We got big oaks all around the double-wide.  I lived through Hugo, so I know.”
For Aldridge, assuring her family’s safety is all that matters.
“I got insurance on the trailer, but you can’t replace them,” she said, referring to her loved ones. “They’re all I have left in this world.”
The shelter at Buford High, 4290 Tabernacle Rd., opened at 2 p.m. Friday and is set up to hold about 125 people. The shelter has minimal supplies and only a small number of cots. It is expected to be open only 24 to 48 hours.
Summers said the shelter was setting up 26 cots to begin with and would add more as needed. There were an additional 24 cots in the Red Cross supply trailer on site, and the S.C. National Guard planned to deliver more to the shelter.
“Initially I didn’t plan to put out any cots, but after hearing from the governor, he wants us to be prepared to be long-term shelters if needed,” Summers said.
Panhandle residents can make their way to the closer Ardrey Kell High School, just over the N.C. border at 10220 Ardrey Kell Rd. in Charlotte.
Evacuees are encouraged to bring their own pillows and blankets, any special-diet foods or medications they need, and toys for kids. Meals will include military MREs and cafeteria food. No weapons are allowed.
If other shelters are needed in the county, they will be announced when they open. Darren Player, Lancaster County emergency management director, said they will not be announced in advance because some people will misunderstand and immediately go to that shelter.
Summers said it’s hard to guess how many people might show up at a shelter.
“There’s no way to predict what to expect. I’ve done this before and had a lot of people show up, and I’ve done it before and had nobody,” Summers said. “During Hugo I had 85 people show up for a shelter that could only hold 50.
“We get it set up to serve as many people as we can,” he said. “Red Cross has brought in some food. And thanks to Lancaster Emergency Management. They brought a trailer full of supplies. Everything has been pre-planned, and I don’t anticipate any problems.”

Follow reporter Mark Manicone on Twitter @mark_manicone or contact him at (803) 283-1152.