ENNIS, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – For now, hotel rooms left empty in the wake of COVID-19’s economic catastrophe are replacing shelters as South Texans flee the storm.
The state is establishing resource centers along the evacuation route to provide information, resources and a small break from the constant worry.
“We live like 15 minutes from Treasure Island,” said Glenda Moody, evacuating from Port Arthur. “That’s where the water is at.”
Still, the potential for rising water is not all that she and her sister left in Port Arthur.
“When our Mom was living, back in 2005, we evacuated from Rita,” sad her sister, Deyanira Morales. “He didn’t want to leave them. But, she made him get out. Now, she’s passed on. He just doesn’t want to leave.”
Their elderly father stayed behind.
“Very concerned,” admitted Morales. “Not only him; but, also my brother stayed behind to stay with him.”
Moody says their father knows the risks. “He’s old school. His mentality is, ‘you know, I survived before, I’m going to make it through again.’ But, you know, sometimes you don’t have that luck, you know.”
So, the sisters faced a difficult decision.
“I told my sister, ‘you know what. We got the kids. Let’s just get out of here,'” said Moody. “Of course, we didn’t want to leave. You don’t want to leave your home… everything behind. But, what do you do? I’d rather lose everything and we’re okay.”
The sisters say it was no small blessing to find the Ellis County reception center along the highway to help them figure out next steps.
“We have water, we have WiFi, we have hospitality, we have social workers,” said Ennis Mayor Angie Juenemann. “If you need medical attention, we have people here that can provide that. We’re Texans, we’re proud we are here for our fellow Texans.”
Ellis County Judge and Emergency Management Director Todd Little says the needs go beyond the snacks and water.
“I just had a prayer in there with a little family whose grandfather decided to stay back at 80 years old, he’s gonna try to test the storm out down there and they’re upset,” said Little. “We’ll be assuring, we’re just a helping hand.”
A hotline established in the area to coordinate assistance for COVID-19 is now fielding calls from North Texans looking to help those who are escaping the storm with so little.
“One of the things that most people need is gas money,” said Juenemann. “If you feel moved at all, we have our Bluebonnet Call Center set up: 972.695.3524. That can help people in so many ways. Gas. Getting them to a hotel, some semblance of security is really important.”
Meanwhile, the sisters say they view the approaching storm as the unpredictable danger that it is.
“We’ve been through it, and we know how bad it can get,” said Moody, “and seen people die and pass away. Why would we take those chances? We’re not gonna do that. Material things comes and goes. Don’t replace family.”
Now, if they can just get their father to agree in time.