Evacuees face waiting game at shelters in Missouri, Illinois

Monday, May 2, 2011
The Community Center in Olive Branch, Ill., provides shelter and food to families affected by flooding and volunteers working in the floodwaters. (Laura Simon)

Dorothy Salley held her 13-day-old baby boy tightly Sunday as she stood amid rows and rows of cots filling the Shawnee Community College gym.

Salley and her son, J'Quan, fled their apartment in Cairo, Ill., Sunday to seek safety with several other family members already staying at the American Red Cross shelter set up at the college in Ullin, Ill.

Cairo, Ill., Mayor Judson Childs has been telling residents to evacuate for days, but Salley didn't want to leave. She stayed until the mayor's mandatory evacuation issue came.

"I really like sleeping in my own bed," she said.

About 70 Cairo residents are now staying at the shelter, which opened Friday, said Red Cross volunteer Gary Ogle. Among those are 23 children, for whom volunteers have kept busy bringing in games, toys and crafts for them to work on.

Several shelter residents were gathered around a television watching basketball to pass the time.

They have no idea when they may be able to return to their homes.

Several shelter residents were evacuated from The Delta Center Inc., a mental health and substance abuse counseling center. They are staying in a separate hospital unit at the shelter, Ogle said.

The Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief organization is providing meals at the shelter.

The same organization also provided a portable shower trailer for a shelter at First Baptist Church in Morehouse, Mo., where about 75 percent of the town is under water, said Mayor Pete Leija. Floodwaters from the Little River are now threatening the town's wastewater treatment system, with two of its lift stations now under water.

About 25 people stayed at the church's Family Life Center on Saturday night, said the Rev. Randy Conn.

"The water came up fast," said Carolyn Kinder, who left her home on Boone Street to come to the church shelter. She brought a trash bag of clothes, her diabetes medication and her two small dogs, Rascal and Sissy Bell.

Her car and home are now under several feet of water.

"It's scary. You just don't know what you're going to go back to," she said.

Many of those staying at the shelter lived in a senior and low-income housing complex along U.S. 60.

There are 434 homes in Morehouse and about 90 percent of them are affected by the flooding, Conn said. About 80 percent have water in them right now. The town's grocery store, bank, post office and library are also flooded.

"I've never seen nothing like this before," said Jimmy Eaton, whose lived in Morehouse for 45 years.

When he and his girlfriend left their apartment, Thursday, water on their street was knee deep.

"Every time a car drove by, waves would come into the apartment," he said.

Conn said many local churches have been working together to assist the flood victims in the Morehouse community.

"No church in this community is a big church, but we're all small churches pulling together," he said.

Monday washers and dryers will be installed at the shelter so those staying there can do laundry. Those interested in helping with the Morehouse Baptist Shelter are asked to call 573-703-5540.

Since it began storm and flooding relief efforts in Southeast Missouri, more than 800 people have stayed in Red Cross shelters. The relief group has served 20,087 meals and snacks, with 12 emergency response vehicles have been providing mobile feeding. More than 450 family disaster assistance cases have been opened.

Currently Red Cross shelters in Missouri remain open in Cape Girardeau, Stoddard, New Madrid and Mississippi counties.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent addresses:

Ullin, Ill.

Morehouse, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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