Population at emergency shelters may rise in coming daysAfter housing more than 180 people in emergency shelters Wednesday night, Red Cross and Fond du Lac Band officials were preparing for the possibility of more in coming nights as the flood of 2012 continues to run its course.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
After housing more than 180 people in emergency shelters Wednesday night, Red Cross and Fond du Lac Band officials were preparing for the possibility of more in coming nights as the flood of 2012 continues to run its course.
“People don’t like to sleep in public shelters,” said Hanne Gonzalez, executive director of the Northland Red Cross. “When you’ve got these kinds of shelter numbers, you know you have a lot of people displaced.”
That number could rise, said Lynette Nyman, communications and government relations manager for the Northern Minnesota Region of the Red Cross.
“We’re planning to accept as many or more,” she said, adding, however: “I don’t know if those numbers will change.”
The Fond du Lac Band housed 124 people in the Fond du Lac Community Center with Red Cross support. The Red Cross sheltered 26 people at Duluth’s First United Methodist Church (the “copper-top church”) Wednesday night and 33 at the Scanlon Community Center, Nyman said.
On Thursday, the relief organization moved its Duluth shelter to the old Secondary Technical Center next to Central High School, 803 E. Central Entrance, because the church needed its facility back, Nyman said. Laura MacArthur School, which had been planned as the shelter site, proved unsuitable, said Verne Wagner, a Red Cross volunteer.
Numbers can fluctuate in disasters, Nyman said, but a couple of factors suggest shelter populations might rise, at least in Scanlon and at the Fond du Lac Reservation:
Diver said she hoped many evacuated band members would find places to stay with friends and family.
Susan Stanich, 71, said she had friends to stay with after being evacuated from her home in Duluth’s Fond du Lac neighborhood (not part of the reservation) on an airboat on Wednesday afternoon.
Stanich returned on Thursday afternoon with hopes of taking a friend’s canoe back to her home to check on her pets. She said she was frustrated that police wouldn’t allow her access, but were allowing neighborhood residents who hadn’t evacuated to go in and out.
Duluth police Public Information Officer Jim Hansen said the situation on Highway 23 leading into the neighborhood had been in flux, perhaps leading some residents to think they weren’t being treated fairly. But as of Thursday afternoon, the Minnesota Department of Transportation had ordered the road closed, Hansen said.
Stanich said many of her neighbors are staying with friends and relatives.
On the reservation, Diver said some people were staying in their homes in spite of being virtually isolated by floodwaters. Her street map was highlighted with splotches of red and purple showing streets where travel was impossible. Other roads were outlined in yellow, indicating they were covered with water but passable.
To demonstrate the extent of the damage, Diver drove her van north on Reservation Road to the Fond du Lac Creek, where the road had washed out into a deep gully, about 200 feet across. A Minnesota Power crew was busy erecting a temporary overhead line to restore electricity to about 30 residents, she said.
On Jarvi Road, Diver stopped at Brevator Road, where water was pouring across the intersection.
The closures are forcing residents to take a circuitous route to their homes, if they can reach them at all. And some of those obstacles, such as the blowout on Reservation Road, won’t be easily repaired. Diver said she was in contact with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but that many of the roads were a shared responsibility between the band and township, county and state governments. She didn’t yet have an estimate of what repairs would cost.
The Fond du Lac Community Center is well-equipped as a shelter with restrooms, showers, a pool and a convenience store next door, Diver said.
In Duluth, volunteers had to scramble on Thursday to prepare the Secondary Technical Center, which had been vacant more than a year. Hanne Gonzalez said volunteers from Grandma’s Restaurants helped clean the building.
The Duluth Area Family YMCA and the Superior YMCA also were pitching in, making their showers available free to flood victims.