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Lack of Information Frustrating for Many at Evacuation Site

There were no news accounts available to the 200 who spent the night, just sporadic announcements from shelter leaders. And not all of their information was correct or useful.

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.

Rose August 28, 2011 at 09:55 PM
They got a lot of nerve compaining. They should have been left in AC for the nite. THey probably are on public assistance and have everything handed to them for FREE!!
Libby Unwin August 28, 2011 at 10:58 PM
Was a volunteer at that shelter!! Art is very good at what he does! I was there for the announcement. It was calm an quiet tempered with concern. There was no TV. If you want radio bring your own--it's a school--not a motel. We were fortunate to even have electricity--food to eat--coffee and caring people to run things. The school staff did a fantastic job as well as the Red Cross.
Marilyn Weisman August 29, 2011 at 02:46 PM
While anxiety runs high at times like this, and some people complain regardless, I think the wonderful people who staffed the shelter should be praised. I am certain each of them has family as well and yet they gave of their time and themselves to help others! You did a Great job. I am sure your efforts were appreciated by many!!!
roxana keppel August 30, 2011 at 02:54 PM
i was there and i am not on anything kind of assistance i work two jobs to take care of my family and was very grateful and appriciative of the good job the red cross and salvation army did..thank u guys so much and dont forget ppl the media twists words around.
Art Masker September 01, 2011 at 02:29 AM
I am Art Masker, and I would like to thank all those who gave me and the Red Cross these kind words. I hope people will come join me at the Red Cross and Volunteer so we can help those in need when it is needed. Thanks again

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