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Campus & Community

Ritchie Coliseum Open as Shelter for Florence Evacuees

Red Cross, State Partner on Hurricane Relief Effort

By Sala Levin ’10

Ritchie Coliseum

Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle

Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle

The last time a hurricane hit Rosie Faison’s hometown of Jacksonville, N.C., she stuck it out. After her home’s roof was destroyed, rooms flooded and possessions lost, Faison wasn’t taking the same chance with Hurricane Florence. “When they say leave, leave,” she said.

Faison and her four children and four grandchildren were among the 19 people taking refuge from the storm yesterday in a shelter in Ritchie Coliseum run by the state of Maryland and the American Red Cross.

Open since Thursday, the shelter—one of two in the state—can accommodate as many as 150 people, providing evacuees with cots, food, medication and games for children. The arena and upper mezzanine levels of the building are being used for sheltering needs, while the lower level continues to operate normally. A back hallway has been set up with four private showers and bathrooms with changing areas.

The shelter is tentatively planned to be open through the weekend, said Andrea Bussler, associate director of facilities for University Recreation and Wellness, which oversees Ritchie Coliseum. “It’s a very unfortunate situation, but we’re happy we can work with the Red Cross and the Department of Human Services and all the different campus groups that have been supportive of this to make this a smooth process.”

About 30 volunteers have been working 12-hour shifts since Thursday, said Candice Covin, American Red Cross disaster program manager.

“People are coming every day,” she said.

More than 1 million people were ordered to evacuate before Florence, then a tropical storm, slammed into the coast of North Carolina on Friday. At least 17 people have been killed.

Faison arrived at the shelter on its first day of operation, after fleeing her home with her family, heading north, then sleeping in a hotel parking lot in Maryland. She was eventually contacted by a social worker who directed her to the shelter on campus. Faison hopes to return to North Carolina by the end of the month.

A relative who stayed in North Carolina told Faison that flooding and lack of electricity continue to be problems.

“We’re happy y’all are opening your doors,” said Faison. “We’re very proud to be here.”

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.