Dallas is preparing for thousands of evacuees from the Houston area due to the damage and destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey and the widespread flooding and rainfall left in its wake. According to various local law enforcement agencies, at least 10 people have been killed due to Harvey—the worst storm to hit the Houston area in half a century. An Associated Press report lists tens of billions of dollars in property damage, and one of Houston’s top energy providers, CenterPoint Energy, is reporting that more than 90,000 of their customers in the Houston area lost power.
As evacuees continue to make their way to Dallas, at least three Dallas recreation centers have started taking in displaced residents that need shelter: Walnut Hills Recreation Center, Samuell Grand Center, and Tommie M. Allen Center in South Dallas. All three are currently staffed by Red Cross and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members.
“When you look at what happened in [Hurricane] Katrina, we had 28,000 individuals come to the Dallas area, and they were here for months,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told C-SPAN last week. “Making sure we integrate them into schools, making sure we integrate them into housing and [taking care of their] medical needs will be of the utmost importance.”
The mayor reassured immigrants to not be afraid to seek assistance; some immigrants have expressed concerns that their legal status will be an issue.
“We are not asking for immigration status or papers from anyone at any of our shelters. We are using every resource available to assist evacuees,” Rawlings shared via his Facebook page. “Our priority is protecting and sheltering our fellow Texans.”
Due to the thousands expected to arrive in Dallas over the next week, the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center’s parking garage was converted into a “mega shelter,” able to house 5,000 individuals at one time. Some officials are concerned that simply won’t be enough and are exploring other options, as upwards of 9,000 people are expected to arrive at the convention center this week.
“Right now, we’re just focused on getting this center opened, and then the state has asked us to start lining up other ‘mega-centers,’” said Rawlings. “We may have as many as we had in Katrina again this year, and so we want to be prepared for those tens of thousands of people who come in.”