Hurricane Katrina evacuees expected at Falls Creek

Monday, September 5th 2005, 6:11 am
By: News On 6

DAVIS, Okla. (AP) _ Dozens of volunteers from Oklahoma Southern Baptist churches prepared to welcome as many as 3,000 evacuees from New Orleans Monday, one week after Hurricane Katrina devastated their homes and sent them on a multistate journey for shelter.

The evacuees will be housed at Falls Creek, a camp located near Davis owned and operated by the Southern Baptist Convention of Oklahoma. The American Red Cross is working with Baptist officials to oversee sheltering needs at the camp.

``I am confident we are ready and that survivors will be pleased with the reception they receive when they arrive at Falls Creek,'' said Ray Sanders, spokesman for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

Falls Creek will be the second evacuation center in the state for victims of Hurricane Katrina. A total of 1,434 evacuees arrived late Saturday and early Sunday at Camp Gruber, a remote National Guard training camp in northeastern Oklahoma.

Officials arranged shelters in Oklahoma and other states after evacuees were turned away from sites in Houston that were already full.

Anthony L. Jordan, executive director-treasurer for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said the evacuees will be housed in dormitory-style cabins at the camp, which is nestled in the Arbuckle Mountains in southern Oklahoma.

``Once our guests from the Gulf Coast walk off the bus they will be welcomed with a warm Oklahoma smile and a 'Bucket of Blessing', a care-package type bucket full of essential items, snacks, books and toys, all prepared by our church members,'' Jordan said.

Sanders said a variety of activities are planned for the evacuees, including movies, crafts, recreation and relaxation.

``Within the coming days we fully expect school-age children to be back in an educational setting with a variety of learning experiences available for adults as well,'' he said.

State Superintendent of Schools Sandy Garrett said the Department of Education is working to reduce bureaucratic barriers that would prevent their placement in an Oklahoma public school.

Michelann Ooten, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, said The Salvation Army will provide clothing and the Oklahoma Veterinarian Association and the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter will provide housing for any animals that accompany the evacuees.

Ooten said her agency is working to secure telephone and mail service and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol will provide security. The Oklahoma Health Department will provide medical assistance.

Ooten said the Oklahoma Department of Tourism is working to place more evacuees in rooms at state park and resorts. Tourism officials are working with the red Cross on the evacuees' food and clothing needs.

The Red Cross is operating a service center in Tulsa, has opened 140 cases in Oklahoma City and is assisting 15 families in the Altus area.

The Salvation Army has helped about 100 evacuees in the Lawton, Oklahoma City, Enid, Shawnee and Norman areas.