DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings says the city is preparing for evacuees to stay in its shelters for as many as three weeks.
Since Thursday afternoon, the Mayor says 20 military planes carrying nearly 1100 evacuees from the Port-Arthur-Beaumont area have arrived at Dallas Love Field. Most are being taken to the city’s mega-shelter that opened Monday morning at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown.
Mayor Rawlings says more evacuees could be coming. “We’re planning those numbers could get up to 1,000 more, we don’t know.”
Joanne Laster and her 13 year old son Jaekwon are among those who arrived here from Port Arthur just after midnight. First, their apartment complex flooded, then she says they had to be rescued from their shelter at that city’s civic center, which also was under water.
Laster says during the ride out, water rose over their school bus’ hood. “It was scary. You don’t know if it’s going to get inside and if you’ll drown. It’s still a little nerve-wrecking.”
Mayor Mike Rawlings met with some of the evacuees and the volunteers helping them at the convention center. He says the evacuees are appreciative, but exhausted. “Their level of fatigue is so great.”
The Mayor says in some cases, the evacuees are very poor. “The degree of poverty with these individuals is terrifically sobering.”
The city manager he says is now developing a plan to work with other cities in North Texas for transitional housing. Irving and Fort Worth also opened shelters for evacuees. In the meantime, Rawlings says Wal-Mart and JC Penney are donating new pants, shoes, and the basics for the evacuees.
He described an area set up in the convention center as a shopping center. There’s also a new spiritual center and Walmart had already established a mini-pharmacy. The Mayor says 28 evacuees needed to be taken to area hospitals for treatment. That includes infants.
Joanne Laster says she and her son saw a doctor soon after they arrived, but are fine. She says everyone at the convention center has been welcoming. “These people are the friendliest bunch of people.”
Now her son is signed up to start 8th grade here in Dallas on Tuesday. He says he’s, “Happy, it feels like I want my mom to move out here.”
Another evacuee, Kerwin Thompson of Houston says he and his family left Houston last Friday as soon as he heard flooding could be catastrophic.
“When I heard that in the news, I called my wife and told her when you leave work, we’re out of here.”
They have been in Dallas for one week. While they’ve stayed at a hotel instead of a shelter, they are still registered at the mega-shelter to receive services.
“We’ve come to see everything from FEMA and all that we can apply for just in case when we get back and we don’t have anything.”
They’ll go home Saturday to see what’s left of their home.
“We aren’t worried about that cause we can always get that back. As long as our kids are together and we’re all right, that’s the main thing.”