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Emergency Shelter in West Deptford Braces for Onslaught

The Red Cross shelter at West Deptford High School is ready to accommodate up to 300 people.

Paul Pierce isn't rolling the dice on Hurricane Sandy. 

The 60-year-old resident of Clayton, Gloucester County, was one of the first to arrive at the emgergency shelter at West Deptford High School after it opened at 8 a.m. Monday. 

"There's no sense in waiting until it's too late," mused Pierce, as he lay on a cot in the school's gynasium. 

Pierce was one of about a dozen people who had sought shelter at the high school by mid-morning Monday. 

The American Red Cross is coordinating the shelter, which can accommodate up to 300 people. 

"But, once we reach about 200 people, we yell, 'help,' " said Steve Freiman, the shelter manager. 

Williamstown Middle School has been designated as an alternate shelter if West Deptford High School reaches capacity, he said. 

Although the shelter is primarily for Gloucester County residents, "we don't turn anybody away," Freiman said. "If they're seeking shelter from the storm, they'll get it."

That includes their pets. The school's machine shop has been converted into a makeshift animal shelter, with pet crates balanced between sawhorses. Two small dogs peered from one of the crates Monday morning. 

People taking refuge at the shelter will be served hot meals by volunteers who've come from as far away as California, North Carolina and Florida. 

There's also a nurse and a paramedic on duty around the clock. And, Cooper University Hospital set up a medical unit at the shelter, Freiman said. 

Joe Fury, 66, lives in the flood-prone Willow Woods mobile-home community on Crown Point Road in West Deptford. 

Although his home near the front of the complex wasn't awash Monday morning, he wasn't taking any chances, either.

Armed with a battery powered transistor radio, Fury decided to ride out the storm at the shelter. 

"I've been here before," he said of previous flooding incidents that forced the evacuation of Willow Woods. 

As of early afternoon, there were no reports of major flooding at Willow Woods, and residents had not been evacuated. 

Fury, who's lived at Willow Woods for 28 years, is keeping his fingers crossed that Hurricane Sandy will take mercy on the area. 

"I hope I'll have a place to go back to," he said. 

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