Shelters Shutting Down, Though Red Cross Gearing Up For Rita

The Red Cross shelters in Tyler are expected to be closing by Thursday. Fewer than fifty people are still housed at First Christian Church and Green Acres Baptist as most have been moved to hotels or elsewhere.

But what happens now that Rita's on the horizon?

The Tyler shelters have just a fraction of the residents they did. And for the volunteers, relief.

At least for the moment.

"We're tired, naturally. As we're going into our fourth week now and if we're looking at another possible hurricane, that might be weighing on our mind a lot as to how tired we might be," said Susan Campbell, Red Cross spokesman.

Campbell says to gear up for another catastrophe is hardly thinkable, but it's reality.

"We are very closely talking to the EOC to see where Hurricane Rita will be tracking, and if we are preparing to evacuate, we are looking at new shelters to open because the ones we have are exhausted," she added.

Shelters for Rita will be new locations with the same type of facilities.

"We are looking at two other shelters that we actually had on standby for Katrina. So we are talking with them and making sure that they are preparing to see if they're going to be ready to open."

But at the current shelters, they'll be closing down for good.

"We have to bring them relief here. They've been helping for more than a month, and they've done a wonderful job, but now it's time that we give them some relief, and hopefully our volunteers some relief."

How long the volunteers will be able to rest depends on Rita.

Rose Heights Church of God and First Baptist Church are expected to be the first two Tyler shelters opened for Rita evacuees, if it's necessary.

Katrina victims are being moved more quickly than expected into hotels, because those rooms are quickly being reserved by folks looking to move out from the Texas coast.

In Longview, the few dozen people at the shelter at Maude Cobb Activity Center are expected to be out by tomorrow. But they're planning for Rita as well.

Anne Brooks is executive director of the Piney Woods chapter of the American Red Cross.

"We've been able to activate a shelter rather quickly from our experience and we're ready to go. All of the different units that are involved in shelter operations are on standby and ready to reactivate if need be," Brooks says.

It's hoped that many of the possible evacuees would be able to be housed in Lufkin and points southward or westward, but they say they're planning for the worst.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.