TV news report about roof safety sets off “hysteria” in Florida hurricane shelter (video)

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After a national television station anchor gave a report suggesting that the roof of the Germain Arena, which currently houses roughly 4,000 storm evacuees in Florida, was likely to give way, people inside the shelter freaked out.

Tim Engstrom, communications specialist for Lee County, said that officials were trying to reassure upset residents in the west coast town of Estero that the venue was “hardened” against hurricanes.

“We don’t have much information, but this is absolutely false,” Engstrom said after a report aired from the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore, who expressed doubt that the arena’s roof could withstand Hurricane Irma’s high-speed winds as the eye of the storm heads up Florida’s southwest coast. He tweeted, “Evacuation Center at Germain Arena in Estero has opened & is packed outside. Genuinely concerned here w/wind that is forecast with #Irma”

The erroneous media report set off “mass hysteria” inside the venue,  said Engstrom.

A spokesman for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office added that the arena; normally a concert venue, has recently been inspected and is safe. “From a public-safety aspect, the building’s structural integrity is sound,” he said.

The following two videos (below) provide accurate accounts of the conditions inside the arena and the storm bears down.

The first video is narrated by a young girl named Bersai Canales. Surely a television reporter in the making, Bersai shows a shockingly full arena and details her part of the shelter. It’s heartbreaking to hear the little girl wonder what’s going to happen to her home.

The second report comes from the BBC. “It’s a good group,” says one woman of the storm refugees. She goes on to describe barking dogs and cowering cats, but relative calm.

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