Dallas Prepares for Storm Evacuees at Convention Center

Dallas Fire and Rescue personnel set up cots in the convention center's parking garage.
Dallas Fire and Rescue personnel set up cots in the convention center's parking garage.
Mike Rawlings via Twitter
Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

Early Monday afternoon, as volunteers inside the first floor of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center's parking garage scurried to put together and line up 5,000 cots, two volunteers from East Texas Community Emergency Response Team sat outside on the parking garage steps, finishing off their Jason's Deli boxed lunches. Both were wary of media questions and declined to give their last names, citing the instructions they'd received when they showed up to volunteer to help refugees from Harvey.

"We're setting up cots and places for people to hunker down," said Melinda, from Greenville. "We're just here to give back to our community." Melinda's friend, Mariann from Fate, said she'd worked at the Walnut Hill Recreation Center throughout the weekend. Evacuees at Dallas' first shelter were in a decent mood, she said.

"People were in generally good spirits, thankful they had a place to put their head down while they were waiting things out," she said. "Of course, that was when the storm was hitting, so they were worried about their homes and loved ones."

Mariann said most of the early arrivals at Dallas' shelters came from areas that faced mandatory or voluntary evacuations, including Corpus Christi and Port Arthur. The evacuees already in Dallas are "those who could get out and drive themselves up to the shelter." she said. "These guys left like a couple days in advance."

Speaking to reporters at the convention center at lunchtime Monday, just before the city closed the shelter off to the press because of the "chaos" during setup, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said the city is preparing to take in more evacuees as the roads in southeast Texas clear and people are able to drive north. Rawlings said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner asked Dallas to "prepare for the worst and hope for the best."

"They have 250 buses ready to go, Rawlings said. "If Houston is not able to meet those citizens' [shelter] needs, they'll start sending them north."

Rocky Vaz, the director of the Dallas Office of Emergency Management, said his office and the city hope to beat their initial estimates and get the convention center shelter open before Tuesday morning. The experience Dallas had during Hurricane Katrina is proving instructive. "We know what it takes to set up the convention center," he said.

In 2005, during the aftermath of Katrina, Dallas housed about 2,800 people at the convention center. This time, the city expects to be able to handle about twice as many people — along with as many pets as necessary. According to Vaz, animal evacuees will be housed in the fourth floor of the Reunion Arena parking garage next door.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.