"State of Disaster": Dallas's Emergency Planners Do Not Like Ike

National Hurricane Center

Up till an hour ago, Kenny Shaw, director of the City of Dallas's Office of Emergency Management, didn't know whether he'd even be able to use the Dallas Convention Center as temporary housing this weekend if, as expected right now, folks from the Gulf Coast flee north in advance of approaching Hurricane Ike. Turns out, there's a "little company called Wal-Mart" using some of convention center's space -- and as of an hour ago, "they've given it up," Shaw says. Which means the city will be able to house up to 1,000 evacuees, as it did when Gustav sent folks from Louisiana to Dallas only days ago. The city will begin prepping the convention center no later than noon Wednesday.

But it's a bad weekend for a hurricane, Shaw tells Unfair Park: "Timing is everything, and the timing on President Eisenhower is bad." That's because the entire Dallas-Fort Worth area can house at most some 25,000 evacuees, if need be, according to an inventory local authorities took following Hurricane Katrina. Only, several of the area's larger facilities will be booked, among them, Shaw says, almost the entire city of Grapevine, which'll be home to Grape Fest Thursday to Sunday. Shaw cautions that the 25,000 figure will likely be "cut in half" by various events scheduled around the area this weekend.

Also, Samuell Grand Recreation Center, which housed a few hundred folks during Gustav, is not going to be used this time around. At least, that's the plan at present.

"We used it a few days ago because we had some walk-ins and drive-ups before we got the convention center open," Shaw says. "We don't expect that this time. We may have to open it in case of an emergency, though."

Which state and local authorities are almost counting on: Already today Governor Rick Perry declared a state of disaster -- which includes Dallas County -- in advance of the hurricane's arrival. And Gulf Coast residents currently receiving critical medical care will likely be evacuated to Dallas and parts further north beginning as early as tomorrow.

"I guarantee you" Dallas will receive more evacuees than during Gustav, Shaw says. "We're going to have to have more cities jump in the fray and help out."

And, no, Reunion Arena is not an option, as it's already had its infrastructure, including its plumbing, gutted in advance of its demolition some time in 2009. "It's just not in the picture at all," Shaw says.

And for those considering heading to Houston this weekend, keep in mind the state's already expecting to go to its emergency contraflow route late this week. --Robert Wilonsky