In preparation of landfall of Hurricane Matthew, Hillsborough County Public Schools opened seven host shelters as requested by the state. The following schools activated their emergency plans and were opened as hurricane shelters: Brandon High School, Riverview High School, Strawberry Crest High School, Burnett Middle School, Tomlin Middle School, Summerfield Crossings Elementary School, and Pizzo Elementary School.
According to Chief John Newman, HCPS Chief of School Security & Emergency, the county strategically selected shelter sites along the I-4 corridor. Approximately, 152 people, including those with special medical needs or pets, had a safe place to get out of the storm’s path. “Seventy percent of the evacuees were from Volusia County, Merritt Island, Daytona Beach and Brevard County,” Newman said.
As the hurricane’s eye passed Daytona Beach, guests at the Burnett Middle School shelter were greeted at the door by the American Red Cross Regional Preparedness Manager Jose Bueno, Cathy Lewis an American Red Cross volunteer from the Hawaii State Chapter and Robin Hernandez, a Chaplin from the Communication Disaster Response Ministries International. Lewis is retired from the State of Hawaii Health Department and Hernandez is a retired student nutrition production coordinator from the Hillsborough County Public School System. Meanwhile, Annette Newson and Victoria Dejesus from the Burnett Middle School cafeteria were busy preparing a macaroni and cheese lunch for the remaining evacuees and the shelter volunteers. “This morning we served 75 breakfast to very appreciative people,” said Susan Langdale-Morgan, the student nutrition supervisor from area 7.
Joanna Marsh and MJ Bouchard from St. Augustine Florida sheltered in the Burnett Middle School Gym with their service dogs Zed and Lily. “We are from St. Augustine and not going back for a while until it is declared safe and reopened, said Marsh. “I feel safe, and I’m happy they accepted my service dog and my cats,” said Bouchard.
Service animals were allowed to remain with their owners, while all other pets were housed in the locker rooms cared for by personnel from Hillsborough County Animal Services and Animal Control. "We are a little concerned about our houses, but all will be fine," said Marsh. They were pleased the school was able to place a television feed in the gym and that interpreters for the visually and hearing impaired were split-screen for all the storm updates. “The principals and their school staff were superstars. Their ability to transition in three hours from an educational day to emergency shelters was impressive,” Newman said.
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