Thursday, January 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Weather

With nowhere else to go, laundromat provides cover

HIGH POINT — In a 24-hour laundromat on Roosevelt Boulevard in the unincorporated High Point area of Pinellas County, Augusta Yokam and Andrea Buell were sheltering in place in front of huge glass windows just before 10 a.m. Sunday.

They say they have nowhere else to go. Problems at home forced them to look for a place to stay and they walked to High Point Elementary from a nearby mobile home park. But the school wasn't being used as a shelter. So they ended up at the small laundromat with "Wash, Dry, Fold" stenciled on the window.

A few homeless men slept nearby on orange plastic chairs or on the floor, plastic garbage bags draped across their slumbering bodies.

"I guess we'll stay until they kick us out," said Buell, 35.

Yokam, 37, said she's lived in Florida nearly all her life. Hurricane Irma isn't her first big storm. The concrete building looked solid and she planned to shelter behind the row of washer and dryers if things got really bad. But neither woman appeared too troubled by the worst storm poised to hit Tampa Bay in nearly a century.

At a shuttered gas station in Largo, Scott Edwards, 40, contemplated his next move.

He'd been driving for Uber since 3:30 a.m. and was down to a half tank of gas. The Chevron station on East Bay and 8th St. NE was the latest in a string of closed gas stations. Edwards was on his way at 8:30 a.m. to south St. Petersburg to help rescue a family that had been left behind when its owners left for Canada.

Edwards says he just wants to help. "Not everyone can get out," he said, before heading south, looking for gas.

Most of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard was deserted Sunday morning, but Thornton's gas station at the Duncan Avenue intersection was a beehive of activity.

At least four Church of Scientology buses rumbled in to fill up at one of the few gas stations still open at 9 a.m. Other residents scrambled around the blue and white buses to find a pump that still had gas.

Mike Williams, 58, was filling several plastic gas containers for his generator. A Clearwater native, Williams was succinct when asked what he expected the effect of Irma would be on his city.

"The worst," he said.

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