LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Dealing with a major hurricane is bad enough.

It's made much worse by being in a precarious medical state and then having a lack of power, bathrooms ceasing to operate and dwindling food and water supplies.

That is what hundreds of Southwest Florida residents, many of whom are seniors, found out the hard way at Palmetto Ridge High School, which was named a special needs shelter for those seeking refuge from Hurricane Irma.

“The heat is intolerable in there,” said Ted Gray, a 75-year-old downtown Naples resident whose wife requires 24-hour access to supplemental oxygen.

More: Hurricane Irma: RSW flights could ramp up Wednesday if power is restored soon

More: Hurricane Irma: Survivors in south Lee County say divine intervention saved them

More: Hurricane Irma: Some tenants displaced after roofs ripped from three apartments in low-income Naples area

More: Hurricane Irma: Hurricane-ravaged ports leave Florida fuel tight

▪ Get complete coverage of Hurricane Irma at naplesnews.com/hurricane

Like the rest of Southwest Florida, power outages were expected during Irma. The problem is the high school’s generators didn’t work as planned, requiring staff to depend on a backup generator. Once it was hooked up, that power provided the juice to keep the oxygen tanks working, but very little else.

Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

Therefore, the evacuees in the shelter have no air conditioning or water pressure. That led to smells rapidly emanating from the inoperable restrooms. The toilets are now being flushed with buckets of water.

While a few of the residents, caregivers and family members were not pleased with the conditions, all of those interviewed expressed their utmost respect and gratitude to the staff and volunteers who helped them before, during and after the storm.

Robert Dion, 75, spoke highly of Jenneine Lambert, a volunteer who was an ICU nurse for 35 years and now teaches nursing at Florida SouthWestern State College. She massaged Dion’s shoulders several times, particularly when she noticed him getting tense when the oxygen flow slowed down during the power fluctuations. Her years of medical training taught her to see the signs that he was having difficulty getting a full breath.

“Stressed and overworked,” Dion said when asked how the health care workers were handling the crisis. “They have too many jobs to do.”

Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

Many of the shelter’s residents also praised those who are bringing in supplies, like ice, water and food, when it started running low. Most brought their own food and water, but some like Dion mentioned that his supplies had also run out since he, like many others, arrived at the shelter days before Irma passed overhead.

Andrea McKinney, public information officer for the Florida Department of Health in Collier County, said they will continue to care for the oxygen-dependent evacuees until they confirm power has been restored at their home.

She said roughly 90 health department employees and dozens of volunteers have been at the shelter since the beginning, taking care of between 500 to 600 evacuees.

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: https://www.naplesnews.com/story/weather/hurricanes/2017/09/11/hurricane-irma-special-needs-shelter-evacuees-dealt-extra-blow/656091001/