Some 200 seek shelter at Riverhead High School

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead residents hunker down Saturday at Riverhead High School in anticipation of Hurricane Irene.

There were 207 people in the American Red Cross shelter at Riverhead High School at 9 p.m. Saturday, officials said, and more were pouring through the doors, as Hurricane Irene got closer to Long Island.

The high school can handle at least 400 people, according to Kent Terchunian, the Red Cross coordinator of the Riverhead shelter.

That would involve placing cots in the hallways, he said. Currently, there are about 160 cots set up in the high school gymnasium.

Riverhead Town sent sandwiches over for 300 people while the Red Cross provided additional food for 200 people, Mr. Terchunian said. The Red Cross food included ready made meals, cereal, bottled water and cookies.

Riverhead Councilman George Gabrielsen  donated the use of a 6,500 kw generator from his farm in Jamesport for the shelter and he brought six buckets of fruit from the evacuees.

Mr. Terchunian said the town has been very helpful. “It’s an example of communities working together,” he said.

Both Riverhead and Southampton towns had mandatory evacuations for residents living in mobile homes and in flood-prone low lying areas.

Edward and Camille Lane, who live in the MacLeod’s Mobile Home park in Riverside, didn’t want to go.
“I wanted to stay with the house,” Mr. Lane said.

Ms. Lane said they decided to go to the shelter when the firefighter who had told them to evacuate said that if they remained at home emergency responders might not be able ot help them in a crisis situation.

“You always hear bad things about shelters, but this is beautiful,” said Marion Sieminski, who also lives in MacLeods. She said there was a lot of security at the shelter, which made if safer.

Virginia Karueliene, who lives in the Forge Road, Calverton mobile home park, said she was convinced to go to the shelter by her niece, who is visiting from Lithuana.

Her niece, Gintare Pauzaite, who also was at the shelter, said she was scared of the storm because of a past experiece.
“Last year in Lithuania, we had a tornado that tore the roof off our house and left us with the rain pouring in,” she said.

She was scheduled to go back to Lithuania Tuesday, although it was not certain if flights would be made due to the storm, Ms. Karueliene said.

Hurricane Irene is expected to hit Long Island with tropical force winds on Saturday night and category one hurricane force winds peaking at about 75 mph Sunday morning. Tropical storm winds are between 39 and 73 mph.

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BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Superintendent Nancy Carney (right) at Riverhead High School, the designated Red Cross Shelter, Saturday.