Dallas' Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center is ready for guests, Mayor Mike Rawlings said Tuesday morning, whenever they arrive. Over the last two days, city of Dallas employees and volunteers have converted the first floor of the convention center's air-conditioned parking garage into a 5,000 capacity shelter capable of housing Hurricane Harvey evacuees for "as long as it takes," Rawlings said.
"All the cots are lined up, and it's going to be a little tight," the mayor said, but he's confident that the "little city" Dallas has built will provide adequate shelter for southeast Texans who choose to head north in the coming days.
According to the most recent forecasts, the worst of Harvey's rains are over for the Houston metro area, with only 1-3 inches of additional precipitation expected Tuesday. As the rains stop and freeways become passable, Rawlings said, residents from Houston and surrounding cities are expected to seek shelter elsewhere.
"That's what I think the state's telling us and what they want us to expect," Rawlings said. "If you remember what happened in Katrina, everybody went to the Superdome, and then they started busing people out."
The state of Texas has 250 buses in Houston, waiting to take people out of the city if necessary. The city of Dallas is prepared to receive about 6,000 people. Those who go to the convention center will have access to medical care, a pharmacy with free prescriptions provided by Walmart and charging stations for their phones, Rawlings said. But that doesn't mean people are going to love staying in the garage.
"It's going to be tough for people. It's crowded," Rawlings said.
In addition to those who are expected to be bused away from the Texas coast, at least some evacuees will arrive in North Texas by plane. Last night, four cargo planes filled with 137 Galveston residents landed at Love Field, and Rawlings said more planes could be on the way. Those evacuees are staying in Irving, he said.
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Despite Dallas' preparations, Rawlings said he hopes the city won't reach its capacity for evacuees. "We hope as few people come as possible, not because we don't want them to come to Dallas. We just want them not to be displaced."
For North Texans looking to help evacuees, Rocky Vaz, the director of Dallas' Office of Emergency Management, said shelters do not need any additional volunteers. Anyone who wants to donate supplies can drop them off at 15660 N. Dallas Parkway.