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Residents forced to evacuate by the oncoming Hurricane Irene and requiring shelter will be bused to Red Cross shelters out of town, local officials said Thursday night.
A scheduled work session between the Town Council and East Greenwich Fire District Board of Commissioners turned into an emergency planning conference as they discussed plans to deal with what could be Rhode Island's first direct encounter with a hurricane since Bob pounded the area in 1991.
As of early Friday afternoon, Irene, which has fluctuated between a Category 2 and 3 (115 mph sustained winds) hurricane, was heading north toward the North Carolina coast. Most projections, including the National Hurricane Center, have the eye roaring up the East Coast and into the New York metropolitan area or western Connecticut sometime on Sunday. But due to the storm's mammoth size, even an indirect hit such as that forecast will bring heavy rain, tropical storm-force (39-73 mph) winds, possible power outages and downed trees or tree branches, and strong storm surge into Rhode Island.
With the Red Cross taking charge, evacuees who need shelter will be transported to either Warwick Veterans Memorial or Coventry high schools, Town Manager William Sequino Jr. said.
"The Red Cross is trying to regionalize the shelters. The benefit to us is that we don't have to spend money to open a shelter," he said.
Police will transport people seeking shelter to the Police Station Community Room, which will be used as a holding area for evacuees. The town's senior van and Parks and Recreation bus will be used to transport evacuees.
While cots and two showers will be available at Swift Community Center on an emergency basis, said Sequino, "in 23 years here, I don't think we've ever had anyone spend the night at Swift as the result of a natural disaster."
Police Chief Thomas Coyle said Cole Middle School, which has a generator, can be pressed into service in case of an extreme emergency.
The Public Works Department's vehicles are gassed up and chainsaws at the ready, said Sequino, adding that barriers are ready for placements in flood-prone areas like Post Road near Hunt's River and Frenchtown Road.
Fire Chief Peter Henrikson said the currently unused Potomamut School is being made available by Warwick for use as an emergency shelter. The low-lying Potowamut neighborhood of Warwick receives fire protection from EGFD personnel.
According to the state Department of Emergency Management, the only areas of town requiring evacuation in a Category 1 or 2 hurricane are those downhill on the east side of Main Street near Greenwich Cove, extending south through Scalloptown Park past Forge Road.
As of early Friday afternoon, Rhode Island is under a hurricane watch from the National Weather Service. Also, Gov. Lincoln Chafee has declared a state of emergency for Rhode Island.
For further emergency information, visit www.eastgreenwichri.com or call the Police Department at 884-2244 or Town Hall at 886-8665.