Mar 11, 2011 10:26 PM by Ariel Wesler

Hundreds of evacuees packed Walmart shopping center

The Walmart shopping center in Arroyo Grande was full within a matter of hours this morning as people rushed to get to higher ground.

RVs and campers were scattered across the parking lot. Many were staying at hotels and campgrounds in Pismo Beach and Oceano.

The Walmart shopping center basically became a temporary rv park for many Central Coast visitors. Many were on vacation from Bakersfield and the Central Valley.

It was hurry up and wait for evacuees from Oceano and Pismo Beach. Many spent eight to ten hours at the Walmart shopping center.

"We've been here since about 4:30, sleeping in the parking lot," said K.C. Green.

He was part of a large group visiting from northern California. They had been staying near the Oceano Dunes.

"We were all asleep at 3:30 this morning. A lot of sirens came in. Officers were in our camp beaten on our trailers. You've got a half our to grab what you can and get out," Green said.

"The first thing I thought was to go up to Walmart because it's higher and you can see down below," said Gerri Baker, an evacuee.

Hundreds of people crowded the center, passing the time. Some rode their bikes. Others shopped, trying to relax.

"We got here and it was only 4 of us and when we woke up at a quarter to 7, it was total wall to wall RVs," said Billy Braisher from Bakersfield.

Police said at one point there were more than 60 RVs in this Walmart parking lot in Arroyo Grande. Evacuees say they were parked so close together it became a fire hazard.

"There was a little bit of chaos. A lot of people not knowing exactly where they were supposed to go," said Commander Chuck Gerheart with the Arroyo Grande Police Department. "It takes a little time to get them sorted out."

Police opened up overflow parking in the 700 block of Branch Street. For the most part, evacuees seemed to be in good spirits, just watching the world go by and wondering when the worst would be over.

The Red Cross closed the last of its emergency evacuation centers by 5 p.m.

Despite the crowds, no accidents or injuries were reported.


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