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Thousands of Hurricane Laura evacuees head to Dallas for shelter

Dallas Morning News logo Dallas Morning News 9/17/2020 By Brooklynn Cooper, The Dallas Morning News
Gabriel McClain riding on the back of a pickup truck: Arthur Washington (left) speaks with his children, Ava, 3, Arthur Jr., 4, and Addison, 5, as they wait by their vehicle to receive a hotel voucher after driving all night from Orange, Texas, to reach the Mesquite Reception Center set up for hurricane evacuees in Mesquite, Texas, on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, after evacuating from Hurricane Laura. © Lynda M. Gonz\u00e1lez/The Dallas Morning News/The Dallas Morning News/TNS Arthur Washington (left) speaks with his children, Ava, 3, Arthur Jr., 4, and Addison, 5, as they wait by their vehicle to receive a hotel voucher after driving all night from Orange, Texas, to reach the Mesquite Reception Center set up for hurricane evacuees in Mesquite, Texas, on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, after evacuating from Hurricane Laura.

Dallas officials announced Wednesday that thousands of Hurricane Laura evacuees would be arriving here by Thursday.

The state notified city officials less than two days ago that about 5,000 evacuees from across Texas would be staying at three Dallas hotels.

About a week ago, Dallas ended its own operations that housed over 1,100 Gulf Coast evacuees between two hotels, but it was unclear Wednesday where they went after that.

“Dallas has been called on once again to help,” Mayor Eric Johnson said at a news conference. “And we’re stepping up.”

Hurricane Laura made landfall on the Louisiana coast Aug. 27 as a Category 4 storm — one of the strongest in that state. The hurricane killed six people, destroyed homes and buildings and left hundreds of thousands without drinking water.

The state is covering the cost for 2,000 rooms in downtown Dallas at the Hilton Anatole Hotel, Crowne Plaza and Hyatt Regency. Evacuees also will receive three meals a day at the state’s expense.

State officials chose these hotels because they can hold large populations, and it will be easier to provide services in one place. Before this week, evacuees — the majority of whom are from Louisiana — had been spread among roughly 30 hotels in North Texas.

“Many of these people have nowhere else to go right now,” Johnson said.

Rocky Vaz, director of Dallas' Office of Emergency Management, said he expects all the hotel rooms to be filled.

“I would’ve liked for it to be spread out to two or three days so we don’t have this rush of thousands of people who have to travel from wherever they are... and stand in line again, get re-checked in,” Vaz said.

“But that’s something that happened, and we’re dealing with it.”

Evacuees can come from anywhere in the state. If someone is in Houston, for example, but wants to be closer to family in Dallas, they need to call the city’s virtual reception number to be relocated.

Dallas is fronting the cost for snacks, diapers, counseling services at Parkland and any other necessities for what Vaz estimates will be the next two weeks — or more.

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©2020 The Dallas Morning News

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