Celtic Studios transformed into huge shelter in Baton Rouge, takes in more than 2,000 evacuees

By: Andrea Gallo

More than 2,000 evacuees arrived by Sunday afternoon at Baton Rouge's Celtic Media Centre, transforming it from a movie and production studio into a shelter for those who have lost their homes in severe flooding around the parish.

But little preparation and foresight of the event has left Celtic needing a lot of assistance, according Patrick Mulhearn, the director of studio operations. Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services spokeswoman Catherine Heitman said state agencies stepped up support to the shelter later on Sunday after seeing how many people were being evacuated there.

Mulhearn said phones at Celtic have been ringing off the hook from people calling trying to find loved ones. The American Red Cross has directed people to their "safe and well" website atwww.redcross.org/safeandwell to mark themselves as safe and connect with family.

"Celtic is a small town right now and we are experiencing small town problems," Mulhearn said. "All kinds of things, like traffic, animal control, feeding the homeless, you name it."

Thousands of cots and other supplies are on the way from the Alexandria Mega Shelter and 50 extra staff members have been deployed from Shreveport, Heitman said. Mulhearn said sound stages where people are staying are large and well air conditioned but are also relatively bare.

He said Celtic will need more restrooms and showers and he hopes they will also be able to provide home-cooked meals and music for the people who are staying there.

Elizabeth Bollinger, a physician with St. Elizabeth in Gonzales, has been volunteering at the shelter almost all day, and she said a group of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel has set up a station to help and triage those who are not feeling well.

Bollinger said they need insulin, oxygen, inhalers, EpiPens, beta blockers, seizure medications, anxiety medications and SSRI medications.

She said their goal has mostly been to stabilize anyone who is not feeling well.

"It looks like Louisiana," Mulhearn said as he described the people staying at Celtic. "It is a mix of every race, color, creed, you name it...What breaks your heart are the elderly and the infirm and the people doing simple things like looking for insulin."

Mulhearn said he has already been impressed by the number of people who have arrived to drop off water, blankets and other necessities for the evacuees. He said he does not know yet how long people will need to stay there.

He said the arrival of people evacuating did not interfere with any productions being shot at Celtic.

"If there is a silver lining to what the Legislature did to the tax incentives, it's that we have been sitting empty for quite some time," Mulhearn said.

Walker Higgins, a volunteer at the impromptu shelter, said that many supplies are needed and they are looking for people to donate and bring the items to the studios at building 7. Celtic is located off Airline on Celtic Drive, next to the Costco.

The needs include: pillows, blankets, leashes, chairs, batteries, tape, and wheel chairs.