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Fort won't be needed for shelter

FEMA -

September 14, 2005|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Washington County was prepared to set up a mass shelter for 100 to 125 Hurricane Katrina evacuees, but those plans are off the table.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency told the county's emergency authorities Tuesday it won't be sending a large number of Gulf Coast evacuees here.

County Emergency Management Coordinator Verna Brown said some evacuees still might come to the county on their own or through relief agencies, but it wouldn't be through FEMA's mass sheltering procedures.

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Brown said FEMA didn't say why a large number of evacuees wouldn't be coming, but that it could be because many of the Gulf Coast residents want to stay in that area.

"They were not going to be forced to come here if they didn't want to," Brown said. "There just weren't enough to make it feasible."

Cindy Blackstock, director of emergency services for the Washington County chapter of the American Red Cross, said that agency has helped nine Gulf Coast families so far, mainly those who have come because they have relatives here.

The Red Cross is open to assisting more families who come to Washington County on their own, but Blackstock didn't anticipate many more coming here, she said.

Many who have come to the area hope to go back, she said.

"Those evacuees who have evacuated thus far are looking to return," Blackstock said.

Before Tuesday's FEMA announcement, Washington County Director of Emergency Services Joe Kroboth said earlier in the day that the county had been preparing to accommodate 100 to 125 evacuees.

The county would have been ready to take the displaced Gulf Coast residents on 36 to 48 hours notice, Kroboth said.

County officials said Monday that the Venice Inn in Hagerstown was being discussed as an option to temporarily house evacuees while authorities found permanent homes for them.

Forty Washington County families volunteered to take in evacuees, Kroboth said Tuesday.

Brown said that while it never was certain that the county would receive a large number of evacuees, planning for a mass shelter was a good exercise for local authorities.

On Monday, the PenMar Development Corp.'s board of directors voted to offer eight, two-bedroom apartments at the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base to evacuees.

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