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  1. Local Weather

In St. Pete, some Hurricane Irma evacuees can't leave shelter yet

By noon Monday more than 300 evacuees remained at the shelter in Gibbs High School. Most were waiting for transportation back to shelters and nursing homes through out the city. But not everyone had a ride, or a place to go. The shelter planned to remain open to accommodate them. [ALLISON GRAVES  |  Times]
By noon Monday more than 300 evacuees remained at the shelter in Gibbs High School. Most were waiting for transportation back to shelters and nursing homes through out the city. But not everyone had a ride, or a place to go. The shelter planned to remain open to accommodate them. [ALLISON GRAVES | Times]
Published Sep. 11, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG — By noon Monday more than 300 evacuees who took shelter from Hurricane Irma at Gibbs High School were still there.

LIVE BLOG: The latest on Hurricane Irma

Many came from the city's homeless shelters and nursing homes and were waiting for a ride back.

"You'll be out sometime today," Gibbs High Principal Reuben Hepburn told evacuees huddled inside the gymnasium. "When that will take place, we have no idea."

But some also had nowhere to go. The shelter was ready to keep taking care of them, too.

Hepburn said school officials and volunteers were working to coordinate with the bus services and social service agencies that brought the evacuees in, such as the Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul.

COMPLETE COVERAGE:Find all our coverage about Hurricane Irma here

Sebastian Nelson, 50, was one of the anxious evacuees waiting to get back to the St. Vincent de Paul shelter. Nelson works at a recycling plant on 20th Street N and said he wants to return to work after two days hunkering down for Irma.

"I miss work," Nelson said. "I love my job. It's a blessing ..."

Another evacuee at Gibbs High, Jeff Wheaton, 39, was in good spirits as he waited for transportation back to a Salvation Army facility.

"It was an unforgettable experience during a time of crisis," he said, "and the staff was very helpful and friendly."

But not everyone at the shelter could go home, though. Robin Hope, 62, who lives at the Sun Cove Apartments and Mobile Homes on 28th Street N, got a call from her son around 8 a.m. telling her that her mobile home was damaged by the storm.

"The trailer is too damaged for us to go back to," she said, crying. "So I am just waiting to see what we're going to do."

Hope said she doesn't know the extent of the damage, but her son told her part of the roof was gone and the walls were exposed to the heavy rains of Irma.

"It could have been worse," Hope said. "But now it's just a waiting game."

Mount Vernon Elementary School Principal Robert Ovalle, who volunteered at the shelter, said school officials anticipated that some evacuees would have to stay at the shelter, so they were ready.

"The bottom line is they're going to have a place to eat and they're going to be safe," Ovalle said. "Whether it takes two days, three days, or an hour, they're going to be okay."

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