As Hurricane Michael blasted through Macon on Wednesday night, several hundred Bibb County residents sought refuge at different shelters across town.
Both shelters at the Salvation Army on Broadway filled to capacity, taking in 150 men, women and children. The shelter stayed open all day and night on Wednesday and Thursday, but will return to normal operating hours on Friday.
At the women’s shelter, Major Francis Gilliam said mothers charged their phones and tracked the storm’s developments on TV while their kids played with toys in the common room. Most of the visitors, though, were men, Gilliam said.
The Salvation Army had spread the word to local organizations serving Bibb County’s nearly 300 homeless residents, and Gilliam was thankful many had chosen to weather the storm in the shelter.
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“We’re happy that they’re able to come to us and just be in a safe place until the storm passes,” Gilliam said.
Along with its own shelter, the Salvation Army also sends food to evacuation centers across the state. On Thursday morning, 77 evacuees munched on cereal and fruit at the South Bibb Recreation Center, which opened as a Red Cross evacuation shelter Wednesday.
About two dozen Red Cross volunteers, Georgia Militia members, public health nurses and law enforcement officials stayed the night with evacuees, checking guests in, serving meals and even providing health evaluations.
Most of the visitors live in mobile home parks in the Macon area and worried it wouldn’t be safe to stay in their homes overnight, said Red Cross volunteer Nancy Williams. Others, she said, evacuated from south Georgia.
“About 30-something came in during the night,” Williams said. “And I think if people either had, you know, something happen around their house or they realized that the winds were getting stronger and decided it would be better to be safer, and so, we’re really glad that people do that and don’t take the risk of staying in a structure that may be damaged or have a tree fall on it.”
By Thursday afternoon, all of the evacuees had already gone home.
The South Bibb Recreation Center will reopen for normal service Friday morning.
If you want to help hurricane victims, you can donate to Red Cross disaster relief at https://www.redcross.org/donate/donation.html/.
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member and reports for The Telegraph with support from the News/CoLab at Arizona State University. Follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/smax1996 and on Twitter @samanthaellimax. Learn more about Report for America at www.reportforamerica.org.