Rhode Island Parks Brace for Hurricane Earl
The Middletown (Rhode Island) Emergency Management team ordered the mandatory evacuation of seasonal residents from the Sachuest Second Beach Campground, prompting a few residents to leave immediately Thursday night (Sept. 2), while most other campers took steps to secure the outside of their RVs and move whatever they could inside for a few days, the Middletown Patch reported.
Beginning at 4 p.m. today, the Gaudet Middle School will serve as the emergency evacuation shelter, offering shelters indoors, as well as an ample parking lot and higher ground for campers to park their RVs, officials said.
"We're closing the campground and offering to move the campers to the Middle School," said Middletown Fire Department Captain Brian Powell. "We're also adding an extra shift (of firefighters and rescue personnel) tomorrow night, and the shelter will be staffed with both a police officer and someone from the Fire Department."
Additionally, the American Red Cross will also have volunteer staff at the shelter to assist with bedding, meals and other ways, said Middletown Fire Chief Ronald Doire, who serves as the town's Emergency Management Director.
The evacuation of campground residents is mandatory. However, camp residents may choose to leave behind their RVs and campers, said Jan and Herb Carlson, who serve as co-managers of the campground.
The campground houses 46 RVs with roughly 100 residents from mostly New England and New York, along with some "snowbirds" who split their year between Florida and Middletown, according to the Carlsons, who reside permanently in Attleboro, Mass.
"A couple people left tonight but we expected most people to begin leaving in the morning," said Jan Carlson.
"Everybody has to be out by 5 p.m. today, but the trailers don't," said Herb, explaining how most campers have their RVs professionally moved in and out annually and don't have the capability to tow them from the campground with such short notice. Besides, most residents will want to return after the storm has passed to finish out the season, the Carlsons noted.
Hurricane Earl has prompted the third evacuation of the campground they've seen since staying at the campground every summer since 1976.
By 9 pm Thursday, one lone fifth-Wheel RV was parked outside the Gaudet Middle School.
Emergency officials said that campers or anyone seeking shelter from the storm will be able to stay at the middle school shelter until the campground is determined as safe and inhabitable again, which could happen as early as Saturday depending on the severity of the storm.
From conversations with the residents, the Carlsons anticipated that most residents would leave their RVs behind and opt to drive to their permanent homes located throughout New England, rather than stay in the shelter. A few have already checked into area motels, they added.
Thursday night Second Beach Campground residents were busy at work removing screened patio enclosures and relocating outdoor lawn furniture inside their RVs. Neighbors were borrowing and lending flashlights and car battery charges, loaning tools and generally helping each other secure their camps.
Brian Malloy, of Berlin, Conn., has been a regular summer camper for 15 years. On Thursday, he made the two-hour drive from his regular residence to the campground to remove the heavy duty screen porch he had built on an elevated platform outside his RV. "I left work early and came out to take this (porch) down because of the hurricane," he said.
Hurricane Earl is expected to hit the southcoast of Aquidneck Island with tropical storm force winds in excess of 50 mph, or possible hurricane force winds of 75 mph or more if the storm system moves any further inland.
Most recently, the National Weather Service (NWS) showed the storm tracking further inland that originally projected. While it still is expected to hit as a down-graded tropical storm, powerful winds, a four- to six-foot storm surge, and coastal flooding would pose a serious threat to seasonal residents at the Sachuest Beach Campground, located across the street from Second Beach, where the brunt of the storm is expected to hit Middletown hardest.
Rain, heavy winds and high surf are expected to begin arriving early Friday afternoon and peak around midnight, with waves of up to 11 1/2 feet projected.
"Our biggest concern is the flooding," said Jan Carlson. "Compared to the beach, we're actually on slightly higher ground here, but all the streets around us get flooded, so we become like a little island here and that's a concern because you can't get in and out."