A lack of information—and, in some cases, bad information—added to the tension 200 people felt as they overnighted in a Galloway Township evacuation center during the hurricane.
The was filled to capacity when shelter officials wrongly awakened them around 11 p.m. Saturday night and announced a tornado was bearing down on them.
"We were called to the cafeteria," said Jackie O'Neal of Atlantic City. "It was high anxiety."
She, her husband, Mason, and 4-year-old grandson, Dylan O'Neal Herman, were forced from their Atlantic City high-rise by evacuation orders Friday.
While Hurricane Irene spawned tornado watches, no actual tornado touched down in Galloway.
Getting information from just shelter officials was "frustrating," said Jackie O'Neal. "It was frustrating not to have news."
Without any access the real-time news accounts, the O'Neals and others heard only contradictory second-hand accounts from friends and neighbors also at the shelter.
The shelter was set up Friday when state and local officials ordered mandatory evacuations of everywhere east of Route 9. Many at the Galloway school were from Atlantic City.
The O'Neals said officials also failed to enforce their own announced quiet curfew, making it hard to stay settled.
Still, they said officials and volunteers were nice and tried to make everyone comfortable.
In fact, Dylan slept through his first hurricane—except for the erroneous tornado warining.
The O'Neals were anxious to leave Sunday, but had not heard any briefing about conditions as of 11 a.m. Sunday.
By 12:30 later that day, the shelter was closed.
Likewise, Arnold Talley and Roxana Koppel, both of the South Inlet section of the city, and Constance Brokks, of Philadelphia, said there's been tension throughout their stay, and little information.
Koppel said the shelter manager, Art Masker, had a "panicked look" much of the time.
Masker, who praised his volunteers, said he and his staff did the best they could to get information out and not take risks.
He said normally a shelter would have at least a radio for news account, but a full shelter kit was not delivered. And the school had no TVs available.