east charleston (web only)

A man makes his way through a flooded public housing complex on the East Side of Charleston.

As of 6 p.m. Monday, 89 people had found shelter from the storm in a pair of Red Cross-operated county buildings near the Al Cannon Detention Center on Leeds Avenue in North Charleston.

Officials said two or three pets had arrived at one of the buildings that was equipped to take them in, but that the owners had since found other places to take them.

When 62-year-old Ruthie Snider of downtown Charleston arrived with her family Sunday night to ride out the storm, she gathered the other shelter seekers and Red Cross volunteers to pray around a table, seeking protection and favor as Irma barreled northward.

Snider said she was touched that volunteers had traveled from out of state, leaving their own families behind to help hers during a time of need.

“My heart goes out for everyone who came and helped us. I thank God,” Snider said.

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Red Cross shelter on Leeds Avenue

Ruthie Snider of Charleston brought her family to the Red Cross hurricane shelter on Leeds Avenue. Her granddaughter brought an armload of stuffed animals along. Paul Bowers/Staff

Like many longtime Charlestonians, Snider has a fearful respect for hurricanes based on what happened in 1989.

From Floyd to Matthew and every other major storm since Hurricane Hugo’s catastrophic landfall 28 years ago, she has made a plan to get her family to higher ground. With the brunt of Irma forecasted to strike the downtown peninsula at high tide Monday, Snider made sure to get her family out of their Line Street house and into the shelter.

“Since Hugo, we always evacuate. We know that our area always floods,” Snider said.

She was joined by her daughter Susanne and granddaughter Destiny, bedding down on stiff canvas cots in a shared room without windows.

Destiny, 9, even made friends with another girl staying at the shelter -- the only other child in the building as of midday Monday. They danced, swapped stories and rode out the storm together, staying calm even as volunteers told residents to move back from the windows during a tornado watch.

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Hurricane shelter meal

At a Red Cross hurricane shelter in North Charleston Monday, Red Cross Lowcountry Disaster Program Manager Kristopher Barnette holds out a "heater meal," a civilian equivalent of a military Meal Ready to Eat, complete with a water-powered heating device. Paul Bowers/Staff

Snider sat in a low-slung chair in a common room, watching branches fall from trees outside as folks rushed back into the building. She said she was grateful for all the help.

“If we just had a microwave oven, we would have it going on,” she said.

Asked how long the shelters would remain open, Red Cross Lowcountry Disaster Program Manager Kristopher Barnette said, "As long as these people need a place to stay."

The marquis at Blue Star Laundry glowed an invitation to the weary on Rivers Avenue: “Free Wifi, Always Open, Just Like Waffle House.”

At midday Monday, as Irma battered North Charleston and the rain descended in sheets, two souls sat inside, waiting on loads of laundry and waiting on the storm to pass.

One man, who declined to give his name, said he had been living out of his car and wasn’t sure if he would stay at a shelter again, like he did last fall during Hurricane Matthew.

“According to how bad it is, I might try it again,” he said, hunched in a chair with his eyes trained on a rerun of Columbo on a laundromat TV screen.

The water was rising in North Charleston. The duck pond at Quarterman Park, which frequently floods during storms, was already brimming to the banks by lunchtime. And municipal workers had already shut down a section of North Rhett Avenue near I-526 to pump water as Filbin Creek rose toward a waterlogged trailer park.

But for some, it was a day like any other. At the Complete Corner convenience store on Spruill Avenue, cashier Larry Williams said he wasn’t selling much gas as the winds picked up, but he was seeing plenty of familiar walk-ins. He grinned with recognition as a man stepped in the door to buy two cans of Heineken, his usual midday purchase.

“A lot of people don’t realize we’re open,” Williams said. “People keep calling: ‘You open?’ Yeah, we’re open. Long as the building don’t move, we’re open.”

Reach Paul Bowers at 843-937-5546. Follow him on Twitter @paul_bowers.