Hurricane Sandy shelter opens at Roxborough High School

Monday, 8 a.m. update: 21 people and two pets have been checked in at the Roxborough High shelter.

Sarngy Hodge of Germantown isn’t taking any chances with Hurricane Sandy. 

Last August, Hodge and her family spent the majority of Hurricane Irene huddled together on their staircase without electricity. At the time, she was worried that the living room windows wouldn’t hold up through the storm’s blasting winds. 

This year, she’s taking a different approach.

Hodge and her two sons, Carlos, 9, and Asad, 14, were the first to check in at the Roxborough High School shelter on Sunday afternoon. They came prepared with rain jackets, slices of cake, plenty of books and a cell phone.

“I’m from an area near Wissahickon Creek and I’m concerned because it has flooded before so it’s really unsafe,” she said. “As a parent, I had to think about my responsibility. I want my kids to be safe.”

A pet-friendly place to sleep, eat and stay dry 

Roxborough High is one of three shelters open in Philadelphia throughout Hurricane Sandy. Each facility is set up with 50 cots but has the ability to expand, if necessary. Every person that comes to a shelter will get a cot, pillow, blanket and a toiletry kit, along with three meals a day. 

The shelters are all pet-friendly, so people can bring their pets to be kept in a separate area adjacent to where the residential area is. Food and care will be provided by volunteers but pet owners are expected to take their animals out for occasional walks. 

Mental health counselors and nurses will be on hand at each of the centers to provide any counseling or minor medical assistance to those who come in. 

Dave Schrader, director of communications for the Southeastern Pennsylvania chapter of the American Red Cross said the major concerns in this storm will be flooding and power outages. 

“Those are the two primary reasons why people would need our shelter because they don’t have power for days on end potentially and there’s flooding around their house that makes their house unsafe,” said Schrader. 

High demand area 

During Hurricane Irene last year, Schrader said the Roxborough High shelter was the most popular shelter in Philadelphia.

“We had 40 residents here primarily for the entire time of Irene,” he said, noting the neighborhood’s proximity to the Schuylkill and Wissahickon Creek. “So I think there is a need here, it’s a densely populated area and it’s a natural place to have a shelter.”

For anyone planning to go to a shelter over the next few days, Schrader advises them to bring all important documents with them, such as a license and insurance papers. 

“We aren’t going to ask you for ID or anything like that, but in case your home is flooded out, at least you have that with you. You don’t want to leave that behind,” he said. 

As the rain started coming down on Hodge and her two sons on their way into the shelter on Sunday, the concerned mom sighed a small sense of relief. 

“I used to go to Roxborough High, so I know we’ll be safe,” she said. “I’m taking this seriously and I think I made the right decision.” 

West Philly High School and Samuel Fels Elementary School are also being used as shelters through the storm. 

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