Irma evacuees make overnight exodus from Augusta, those who could

Evacuees head back home after storm.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Families in Augusta due to Irma left shelters early Tuesday morning to make their way back home.  Many people left other areas in the southeast, including Augusta, to head back to parts of Georgia and Florida now that Irma has passed. But one woman who found refuge in a Red Cross shelter told us she will be staying behind, for now.

“They just put the stops on people going back to Florida,” Michele Pintello said. “They don’t want us to go back yet.”

All Pintello wants to do is go home.

“I am from Pomona Park Florida,” she told NewsChannel 6, which is about an hour and a half north or Orlando.

The mother of three packed her car and headed straight for Georgia when then Hurricane Irma threatened her flood zoned home.

“We know the St. John’s River overflowed and we live off of the St. John’s River,” she described.

Pintello and her children joined about 180 others at a shelter Red Cross activated at Trinity on the Hill in Augusta. People who fled Hurricane Irma, met Tropical Storm Irma here, but Julia Crim, Trinity on the Hill Minister of Outreach and Discipleship, said they were kept safely indoors.

“We just didn’t want them to go outside with all the wind gusts,” she explained. “So we set up our projectors and made a movie day. We played some major movies.”

And Pintello told us safety was essential because she fled more than just a storm.

“We witnessed 10 to 15 fights before we left gas stations over bottles of water,” she recalled. “It was getting bad down there. If they were fighting at the gas stations, then what are they doing at the shelters?”

Pintello also brought her mother to Augusta, who is disabled. She said the stay in Augusta was great with kind volunteers. But since she can’t go home she has been moved to a shelter at Patriot’s Park. It will close tomorrow afternoon, but a spokesperson from Columbia County said they are working with families who still do not have a place to go home to at Patriot’s Park.

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps


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