HARWICH — Even with limited power and makeshift accommodations, the mood among 103 people taking refuge Wednesday afternoon at an emergency Red Cross shelter at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School was generally upbeat.
“It was awesome,” Cherie Crowell, of Dennis Port, said of the night she spent at the shelter. “You’ve got a whole bunch of people in the community pulling this together. People are jumping in to help one another.”
Crowell was one of about 100 people and three dogs to sleep at the shelter Tuesday night, according to Romeo Bouchard, Red Cross volunteer and shelter lead supervisor. Others came in just long enough to charge their phones and get warm.
“We all felt like we were on a desert island without our phones,” said Claire Briand, of Dennis, who was chatting with others around the shelter’s device charging station.
Briand said she planned to leave once her phone was back to full power.
Kimberly Mckeon's home off Lower Country Road in Harwich Port had been without power for 24 hours, and she was grateful for a place to warm up, she said.
“I have to commend these people for volunteering,” she said. “We’re down to 50 (degrees) in my house. We rely on our power so much.”
The Harwich shelter was one of three on Cape that opened Tuesday to provide hot food, warmth and lodging to people without power. Shelters were also opened at Barnstable Intermediate School in Hyannis and Sandwich High School.
Although the shelter was running on generator power at about 1 p.m. Wednesday — with just enough electricity for heat, a few lights and to allow volunteers to cook up a stack of pizzas that had just come through the door — no one seemed to be complaining.
“The night’s sleep was terrible, but everything else was wonderful," said a woman who spent the night but did not want to be identified.
She described shelter volunteers as “incredibly hospitable and kind.”
Volunteers from the Red Cross and AmeriCorps led the charge to staff the shelters — setting up cots, passing out food and blankets and connecting people with support services they might need, including medical and mental health assistance.
Dr. Margaret Thompsett, a licensed child psychiatrist from Chatham, volunteered as the shelter’s disaster mental health worker. She said people often need help dealing with stress, anxiety and depression that can come with being displaced during a storm.
“Our task for most people is helping them to use their best strengths to deal with a disaster situation,” she said.
Volunteers praised local police and fire departments, saying they've been on hand around the clock to transport people in need of shelter and help with medical problems.
At around 3 a.m. Wednesday, AmeriCorps volunteer Conor Terry was fielding calls in the Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee’s multiagency coordination center, when someone at the Barnstable Intermediate School shelter called and said a man had been dropped off there with a single supply of oxygen and needed more in order to stay.
Terry and his colleagues called Cape Cod Hospital to secure another supply of oxygen and coordinated with the Barnstable Police Department to have an officer pick it up and bring it to the shelter.
During the previous major storm, Terry said he spent 86 hours in the coordination center. Despite the long hours, he said it's rewarding work.
"It gives us the opportunity to do something that a lot of AmeriCorps volunteers don't get to do," he said.
On Wednesday, the county's emergency planning committee announced that, given the slow pace of power restoration, the three Cape shelters will remain open until further notice.
— Staff writer Madeleine List contributed to this report. Follow Kristen Young on Twitter: @KristenCCT.