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Early arrivals seek refuge from Sandy at Northampton shelter

  • Crystal Colandria,26, of Turners Falls, with her two children, front, Jacob Colandria,2, and Trevor,7, months at the shelter at Smith vocational in Northampton Monday afternoon. <br/>

    Crystal Colandria,26, of Turners Falls, with her two children, front, Jacob Colandria,2, and Trevor,7, months at the shelter at Smith vocational in Northampton Monday afternoon.
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ellen Patashnick, of Springfield, the shelter manager with the Red Cross  shelter at Smith vocational in Northampton Monday afternoon.

    Ellen Patashnick, of Springfield, the shelter manager with the Red Cross shelter at Smith vocational in Northampton Monday afternoon. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Crystal Colandria,26, of Turners Falls, with her two children, front, Jacob Colandria,2, and Trevor,7, months at the shelter at Smith vocational in Northampton Monday afternoon.

    Crystal Colandria,26, of Turners Falls, with her two children, front, Jacob Colandria,2, and Trevor,7, months at the shelter at Smith vocational in Northampton Monday afternoon. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Crystal Colandria,26, of Turners Falls, with her two children, front, Jacob Colandria,2, and Trevor,7, months at the shelter at Smith vocational in Northampton Monday afternoon.

    Crystal Colandria,26, of Turners Falls, with her two children, front, Jacob Colandria,2, and Trevor,7, months at the shelter at Smith vocational in Northampton Monday afternoon. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Anthony Kelley, of Northampton checks into the Northampton shelter with left, Sonia Burke of West Brookfield and Jane Robinson of Wilbraham, both volunteers with the Pioneer Valley Red Cross at the shelter at Smith Vocational Monday afternoon.

    Anthony Kelley, of Northampton checks into the Northampton shelter with left, Sonia Burke of West Brookfield and Jane Robinson of Wilbraham, both volunteers with the Pioneer Valley Red Cross at the shelter at Smith Vocational Monday afternoon. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Leaves blow as the storm gets going Monday afternoon in front of Smith Vocational where the shelter is located.

    Leaves blow as the storm gets going Monday afternoon in front of Smith Vocational where the shelter is located. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Crystal Colandria,26, of Turners Falls, with her two children, front, Jacob Colandria,2, and Trevor,7, months at the shelter at Smith vocational in Northampton Monday afternoon. <br/>
  • Ellen Patashnick, of Springfield, the shelter manager with the Red Cross  shelter at Smith vocational in Northampton Monday afternoon.
  • Crystal Colandria,26, of Turners Falls, with her two children, front, Jacob Colandria,2, and Trevor,7, months at the shelter at Smith vocational in Northampton Monday afternoon.
  • Crystal Colandria,26, of Turners Falls, with her two children, front, Jacob Colandria,2, and Trevor,7, months at the shelter at Smith vocational in Northampton Monday afternoon.
  • Anthony Kelley, of Northampton checks into the Northampton shelter with left, Sonia Burke of West Brookfield and Jane Robinson of Wilbraham, both volunteers with the Pioneer Valley Red Cross at the shelter at Smith Vocational Monday afternoon.
  • Leaves blow as the storm gets going Monday afternoon in front of Smith Vocational where the shelter is located.

“My son Jacob has severe asthma and if we lose power I can’t use his nebulizer,” said Colandria, 26, who lives in Turners Falls. “He needs that every four hours.”

After calling her town’s police department, she was directed to the regional shelter the Red Cross of Central Western Massachusetts is operating at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School on Locust Street in Northampton.

Colandria arrived at Smith Voke on Monday around 8:30 a.m. with her two sons — Jacob, 2, and Trevor, 7 months. She brought two backpacks full of toys, along with baby formula, blankets and clothing.

The three were among a group of about nine area residents at the shelter Monday afternoon. They were settling down for what everyone was expecting to be a long night.

Beef stew was on the menu for dinner and there were cots ready and waiting in the school’s large cafeteria.

“This is the first hurricane I’ve been in as a mom,” Colandria said as she pushed her two sons in a stroller along the school’s front hallway. “I’m nervous but I feel better being here.”

Colandria, who plans to enroll at Greenfield Community College next semester to study home health care, had been in touch with her mother in New Hampshire via cellphone earlier in the day.

“They’re feeding us well,” she said. “I’ve spent most of my time chasing the kids around.”

Shelter manager Ellen Patashnick spent eight days at the Red Cross shelter at Smith Voke around this time last year, after a Halloween snowstorm caused widespread power outages in the region.

“It’s getting to be an annual occurrence,” joked Patashnick, who lives in Springfield.

Red Cross leaders learned from their experiences last year and are better prepared, she said. For example, the Smith Voke shelter, which has been open since Sunday at 11 p.m., has a supply of oxygen on hand for residents who need it and a new ham radio system that will allow for communications if cellphones go down.

While Colandria had come the furthest distance locally, Patashnick said another shelter client was a truck driver from Florida who arrived after authorities closed Interstate 91 in Connecticut on Monday.

The regional shelter, which is open to all Hampshire County residents, can house “many hundreds of people,” Patashnick said, noting that people lined the hallways and filled some classrooms last year.

On Monday afternoon, a core crew of a half dozen volunteers staffed a sign-in table and prepared for new arrivals seeking refuge.

As they did last year, the Red Cross has set up a shelter for pets in one of the side buildings at Smith Voke. Patashnick said residents who want to leave their pets there should also bring a supply of food and medications if necessary.

She also urged people seeking shelter to bring medications and baby supplies with them, along with “comfort items for kids” and reading materials.

“It can be long and boring,” Patashnick said.

Shelter rules prohibit drugs or firearms. Guests must sign in and out and agree to quiet time between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Rick Messier, a clinical manager at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, arrived around 1:30 p.m. on Monday to check on the shelter’s supply of oxygen.

He said Smith Voke is a good place for people who only need oxygen or a nebulizer but people with more serious conditions should seek care down the street at the hospital.

For more information, contact the city’s Emergency Management Center at 587-1160.

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