Six shelters in Putnam County open 1 p.m. today ahead of Hurricane Irma

With shelters in Putnam County set to open at 1 p.m. today Putnam County School District officials and city leaders delved into more information concerning shelters before the arrival of Hurricane Irma.

Putnam County’s six shelters have an approximate capacity of 6,615 people. Shelters are open at Interlachen Elementary School, Q.I. Roberts Junior-Senior High School, Middleton-Burney Elementary School and Browning-Pearce Elementary School. Kelley Smith Elementary School will serve as a special needs shelter. Ochwilla Elementary School is the only pet-friendly shelter in the county.

“Whenever they put these numbers out, they’re not considering student numbers. This is a lifeboat, not a cruise,” Student Services chief Travis Weaver said. “This is just to get you through. It’s not the time for comfort. It’s for survival.”

The Red Cross will have four-man teams at Q.I Roberts Junior-Senior High, Interlachen Elementary, Browning-Pearce Elementary and Middleton-Burney Elementary.

As for security, Putnam County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Steve Rose said a minimum of two deputies would be at each shelter with a maximum of four or five. He said the number of deputies depends on the people there.

Residents must bring IDs or other identification or they may be denied entry. Residents who want to stay at the shelters must complete Red Cross paperwork and go through the school district’s background check program.

The shelters have three days’ worth of meals.

“With the shelters up to capacity or more, that may be stretching it a bit,” School District Superintendent Thomas Bolling said.

Bolling added that bottled water and mres are on the way. Material for sleeping will not be provided.

Palatka High School, Interlachen High School and Jenkins Middle School are considered places of refuge if shelters exceed capacity, Putnam County Superintendent Rick Surrency said.

There are worries about Flagler County residents heading toward Putnam County. Surrency said Flagler County shelter capacity could accommodate only 7,000 people.

“The entire county might be heading this way,” Surrency said. “The whole county has maybe 30,000 needing shelter. Hopefully, they keep driving.”

Compared to Hurricane Matthew, Mayor Terrill Hill said three times as many special needs residents are pre-registered for shelters.

Putnam County schools are closed Monday and Bolling said opening Tuesday wasn’t likely.

“There’s absolutely no way after a major hurricane goes through,” Bolling said. “On Monday it takes at least a day to make sure roads are clear, the power is back etc. So we’ll have the conversation about Wednesday on Tuesday.”



A list of shelters available for Putnam County residents:

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

* Middleton-Burney Elementary School, 1020 Huntington Road in Crescent City.

* Q.I. Roberts Junior-Senior High School, 900 State Road 100 in Florahome.

* Interlachen Elementary School, 251 County Road 315 in Interlachen.

* Kelley Smith Elementary School (special needs shelter), 141 Kelly Smith School Road in Palatka

* Ochwilla Elementary School (pet-friendly), 299 State Road 21 in Hawthorne.

For information, contact the Emergency Operations Center at 329-1904.