DALLAS — While the path of Hurricane Laura continues towards the Texas/Louisiana border, officials in Dallas County on Tuesday prepared to direct evacuees, if they arrive in North Texas, to hotel rooms.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said most getting out of the path of Hurricane Laura will make their own lodging arrangements, but for those who don't have transportation, they will rely on buses from the Texas Department of Emergency Management to get them away from the storm and help provide hotel rooms.
"In past cases, we would get them to a shelter like at a school or a convention center," Jenkins said. "In this instance, we will be getting them to hotels.”
TDEM set up four reception centers to be activated Tuesday evening.
Evacuation centers have opened across Texas to shelter Hurricane Laura evacuees. Here are the locations:
- Austin: the Circuit of the Americas at 9201 Circuit of the Americas Boulevard
- San Antonio: 254 Gembler Road
- Dallas: Mesquite Reception Center, located at 15515 E Interstate Hwy 20, Mesquite, TX
- Ennis: the Knights of Columbus Hall at 850 S. Interstate 45
Large congregate shelters, like was used at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in 2017 during Harvey simply will not work in a pandemic.
Justin Bragiel with the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association says hotels and motels would typically be close to full but COVID-19, with all its negative effects, has left hotels close to half empty, which will help this week.
"We have the capacity – at least for now – to shelter a lot of individuals across the state of Texas," Bragiel said. "We’re working with the state of Texas to identify rooms in the Dallas area.”
Jenkins says at least 500 of those hotel rooms are ready starting Tuesday evening in the city of Dallas and more can be added as needed.
The county's top executive issued a disaster declaration to allow Dallas County to secure needed rooms and be fully reimbursed by the state.
"We’re ready, we drill for this all the time," Jenkins said.