As Hurricane Matthew drenched the state of Florida with heavy rain and strong winds, many evacuees flocked north to the Tallahassee area to wait out the storm. Strange places became safe havens for many displaced Floridians, including a local Walmart Super Center parking lot.
One South Florida native, Dean Prisco, said, “Being full time in an RV, I just knew that the potential threat was too dangerous, I didn’t want to be a sitting duck on a peninsula.”
He also told reporters from Tallahassee news station WCTV that he has seen people sleeping in their cars and on the ground in the parking lot because there are no available rooms at the local hotels. However, Prisco was proud to say that people have come together and that the outpouring of support and camaraderie has lifted his spirits.
“Sometimes in these environments, is when the best comes out of people, unfortunately. Hopefully we can just do that all the time and maybe things could change,” he said.
Another Floridian who has taken shelter in the parking lot said that he and his wife are just thankful that Walmart has been so cooperative and supportive to all of the evacuees.
The entire backside of the Walmart parking lot was filled with RVs. The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) estimates that there are as many as 30 million RV enthusiasts nationwide. Most of these RV owners and renters, however, may not ever have imagined that they would be using their recreational vehicle as an emergency shelter.
As of Thursday, Hurricane Matthew has claimed at least 40 lives in the Southeast — 20 in North Carolina, 12 in Florida, three in South Carolina, three in Georgia, and two in Virginia.
Though the hurricane has passed, the crisis is far from over in some parts of the Gulf region. Severe flooding is still causing destruction and threatening lives in North Carolina.
Photo attribution: By Walmart Corporate from Bentonville, USA (Walmart store exterior) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons