At 10 a.m., as a double room in Toms River Police Headquarters was filled with local officials, emergency responders and municipal employees discussing Hurricane Irene, the first families had yet to arrive in the just-opened evacuation shelter at Toms River North.
By noon, the parking lot of the Pine Belt Arena at High School North was a collection of family vehicles, police and emergency cars, and Red Cross vehicles.
The Pine Belt Arena is prepped for evacuated citizens who need shelter from the storm this weekend. The arena floor will become home for those who need it, while the gymnasium has become the cafeteria for the weekend.
The library is open to evacuees hoping to use computers to stay in touch or keep busy.
There is also a media room set up to keep children entertained, as well as a full size shelter set aside for residents' pets.
Any knowledgeable citizens who wish to volunteer and help with pets should contact Helen Ferraro or Barbara Ward at the site.
The capacity for the shelter is 1,200 people, and heading into the evening the presence there is far away from hitting that maximum. However, should the High School North site fill as additional towns order mandatory evacuations, Intermediate North would become the next shelter site.
The Red Cross is working with school officials, as well as township workers to maintain the site.
The High School North shelter is located at the corner of Old Freehold Road and Bey Lea Road (Route 571).
The site is accessible from Route 37 by heading north on Main Street (Route 166) and turning right onto Old Freehold Road.