VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – The last remaining open shelter in Volusia County has closed due to a lack of demand as Tropical Storm Isaias approaches Central Florida.
Officials announced Sunday around 3:30 p.m. that the lone open shelter at Galaxy Middle School would close
In an update Saturday afternoon, Gov. Ron DeSantis said parts of Florida could begin to feel Isaias’ impacts as soon as Saturday night.
Volusia County officials said in a news release Saturday afternoon that a number of shelters would open Sunday for people with special needs and those who can’t stay home or don’t have a place to go to ride out the storm. If possible, sheltering in place is encouraged, officials said.
However, on Sunday afternoon the county closed some of the shelters due to low demand.
“With few if any residents showing up needing alternative accommodations to ride out Tropical Storm Isaias, Volusia County has closed three of its public shelters,” the county said in a statement.
Officials said by noon three of the shelters in DeLand were practically empty.
[VOLUSIA COUNTY STORM GUIDE: Everything residents need to know before a storm]
The remaining shelter was located at Galaxy Middle School, at 2400 Eustace Ave. It closed as well hours after the other three shut their doors.
News 6 spoke to school officials at DeLand High School after it opened as a shelter Sunday morning. The shelter was among those the county later closed.
Melissa Carr, the principal of DeLand High School, said during prior hurricanes the school can normally house 450 evacuees, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures they can only take in about half of that.
She adds there are certain things you will want to bring with you if you go to an emergency shelter.
"Definitely bring a mask. You want to bring a pillow, blanket, snacks, and personal toiletries," Carr said.
School officials said they aren't sure how many people are going to seek shelter, but they said they are ready to help those who need it.
"The storm downgraded, so we don't know how many people are going to feel the need to leave their homes," Gabriel Berrio, the assistant superintendent for high schools said. "But Volusia County and Volusia County Schools are ready to take in whoever needs the space."
Because of the pandemic, county officials are taking extra safety precautions at all of the shelters. If you go to a shelter, you will be required to wear a mask, get your temperature checked, and practice social distancing.
Also due to the storm, Votran has temporarily suspended operations effective at 3 p.m. Sunday.
“Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Votran is expected to resume normal operations on Monday after the storm has moved out of the area,” a news release read.
What to pack
Face coverings are required at all shelters and residents must undergo a wellness assessment before they’re allowed to enter, according to the release.
Anyone who does not feel well or thinks they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should not go to a shelter.
Residents who do plan to stay at one of the county’s shelters should make their final storm preparations on Saturday, officials said in the release. Those staying at a shelter should arrive prepared with supplies for themselves, family members and pets.
According to the release, evacuees may stay at the shelters for 24 to 36 hours but since space is limited, residents are asked to pack essential items only.
Here’s a packing list provided by the county:
- Government issued ID
- Snacks, comfort food and special dietary food
- Bottled water
- Foldable beach chair, bedding, pillow and blanket
- Extra clothing
- Medications and medical supplies, including prescription medications, eyeglasses and dentures
- Charged cellphone
- Ear plugs
- Oxygen supplies (if going to a special needs shelter, bring your oxygen concentrator)
- Toiletry items
- Flashlight and batteries
- Diapers and other necessities for infants and the elderly
- Time occupiers such as books, magazines, board games and cards