The Gainesville homeless center GRACE Marketplace is set to open its doors this evening in preparation for the stormy weather predicted to pass through Northern Florida.
In a release Wednesday from the Florida Division of Emergency Management, Florida residents are told to be aware of the potential for large hail, damaging wind and tornadoes in this second front of severe weather.
But despite the option to head indoors, some residents of Dignity Village, GRACE’s adjoining homeless camp, forego the opportunity and stay outdoors.
Resident Don Rothstead said he plans to weather tonight’s storm in his tent. Rothstead considered relocating to the GRACE Marketplace shelter, but he doesn’t like the crowds there during bad weather.
Earlier today, the campground was littered with hundreds of tents, elevated to avoid flooding and covered with makeshift tarps following Tuesday’s storms.
Such preparations don’t always provide full shelter, however. Rothstead said rain began to pool in the bottom of his tent Tuesday.
“Everything got totally soaked,” he said.
But Rothstead said he’s endured worse storms.
Hurricane Matthew, which hit Gainesville in October 2016, demolished his last tent, leading him to purchase his current one.
GRACE Marketplace opened its doors for then, too Rothstead said.
“They did tell us to go inside,” he said, “but it was wall-to-wall people.”
When the city of Gainesville declares a state of emergency, officials are given more authority to issue a mandatory evacuation for the Dignity Village campground, said David McIntire, the city’s emergency management coordinator. This week’s storms haven’t qualified as emergencies, so residents have been able to stay in their tents.
“Ultimately, there is a liability piece because it’s a city property and program,” he said. “We do have a responsibility for them.”
The incoming storm is expected to be strong and has tornado potential, so residents should be proactive, McIntire said. He suggested getting batteries and tying down loose items outdoors.
As for Rothstead, he said he’ll be “putting that tarp back on there and just dealing with it.”
“We’ll see how it goes.”
This article has been updated to include weather predictions from the Florida Division of Emergency Management.