Update, 6:30 p.m., Monday: Close to 330 evacuees had sought shelter at the Riverhead High School as of about 6:30 p.m., as winds from Hurricane Sandy and high tides forced locals out of their homes and into the emergency shelter, which seemed to be filling up fast.
Sue Smith, who was managing the shelter Monday afternoon, said about 150 had arrived as of 2:30 p.m. and just under 50 stayed overnight on Sunday.
Many individuals seeking refuge came as a result of tidal flooding in the wake of the Peconic River. Southampton Town had upped its mandatory evacuation notice to residents to include category 2 flood zones, while Riverhead Town required all those in low-lying areas that are flood prone to seek higher ground.
Martin Espinosa, a Flanders resident, said that he wasn't expecting Sandy to hit too bad. However after taking a camera out of his pocket, Espinosa showed a water table that was up to his front door when he left with his wife and child.
"I grabbed some important papers, some clothes for my kid, a change of clothes for my wife and myself. Nevermind the rest. You work and you buy the rest again. Life is too precious to stay there," he said.
Dolly Zadel, who lives off Hubbard Avenue, said that after coming to the high school emergency shelter last year, she didn't expect to find herself there again.
But "it wasn't all that bad," she said on Monday. You get your grouches, but you find them everywhere I guess. People helping out here have a smile on their face which is nice."
The Red Cross, with the aid of volunteers from North Shore Christian Church, opened up the shelter Monday morning and volunteers made a trip to East Wind on Monday around 3 p.m. to pick up food donated from Lou Ambrosio, including ham, pizza, sausage stuffed shells and eggplant.
Jerry Halpin, pastor as NSCC, said the volunteers have plenty of water on staff, but donations for Gatorade would be welcome to keep everyone hydrated.
Update, 9 p.m.: Those seeking shelter at Riverhead High School – or at least those who forgot to bring a pillow – will feel just a little bit more at home thanks to a donation from Wal-Mart, which offered 97 pillows to the emergency shelter.
Red Cross manager Tom Reichel said Sunday evening that while the outfit has enough cots to shelter 400 individuals, no pillows were available.
As of 9 p.m., 43 individuals were registered at the shelter.
Original story: Locals seeking shelter from the upcoming storm started trickling into Riverhead High School Sunday evening, hours after town and school officials, and the Red Cross, opened up an emergency shelter on site.
Although the Red Cross did not originally designate the high school as a shelter, and the town organized and opened the shelter on their own, Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, who was at the shelter Sunday night, said he was happy the Red Cross was now onboard.
- Click here to read all the local East End angles on Hurricane Sandy.
Nearly two dozen had sought refuge at RHS by 6:15 p.m., said Tom Reichel, shelter manager with the Red Cross.
Also offering helping hands were members of Jet Blue's "Ready Team," Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and Riverhead's North Shore Christian Church.
Reichel said the Red Cross has cots available for 400 individuals if need be – and should the need arise, more could possibly be obtained. Reichel said about 240 sought refuge at RHS last year when Tropical Storm Irene touched down at the end of August.
"We're preparing as we go," he said Sunday evening. "As more people come in, we'll set up more cots."
Reichel suggested that anyone coming to the shelter bring a pillow of their own – and one of the two dozen who had grabbed a cot was wishing she brought something to kill some time.
"They're very nice people who are here," said Evelyn Trask, a resident of Riverwood, a mobile home community off Hubbard Avenue. "But I wouldn't want to be here two days. It can get awfully boring. But I live alone - I was afraid."
Volunteers have literally flown in to help out at the shelter.
Michelle Lee-Wishner, a Jet Blue employee, said the company's "Ready Team" is dispatched in times of distress such as what the area is seeing currently. Fourteen volunteers are split into a couple of different locations on Long Island, Lee-Wishner said, with seven on site in Riverhead. Volunteers came as far as Utah, Puerto Rico and Florida.
"Today we belong to the Red Cross," she said.
Before Red Cross' arrival around 3:30 p.m., members of Riverhead Central School District's custodial staff were on site preparing the shelter for use, while North Shore Christian Church members prepared sandwiches and got coffee for those coming Sunday night and into Monday.
Walter said approximately 25 people were already set up at the shelter. "I"m very happy that the Red Cross came in - -and that the community is coming together," he said.
Volunteers from the North Shore Christian Church, Walter said, brought extra pillows and snacks. "Things are good," the supervisor said.