AUSTIN, Texas - Austin city officials say that more than 3,000 evacuees traveled to Austin for shelter as Hurricane Laura headed towards the Gulf Coast. All secured hotel shelter space is now full so officials started work on opening a more traditional shelter at the Austin Convention Center.
Capacity at the Convention Center is limited to keep socially distanced and to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines and protocols. That means that only about 135 people will be housed there.
As part of the Capital Area Shelter Hub Plan, Halls 1 and 2 at the Austin Convention Center has been turned into a traditional shelter space.
The traditional shelter setting will provide a place for evacuees to sleep, get food and other basic amenities.
While the Office of Emergency Management staff looked for hotels to take in evacuees, they also worked to create a safety plan for a congregate shelter during a pandemic. It will be in a separate part of the Convention Center from the alternate care facility that's been set up in Hall 3 to provide medical attention to COVID-19 patients should hospitals need additional capacity.
Evacuees are encouraged to call 2-11 or Austin 3-1-1 (512-974-2000) for assistance in finding the closest shelter. You can also get more information on the City of Austin's website.
City officials say that the reception area at Circuit of the Americas is operational and limited space is available in a shelter setting for evacuees. Evacuees coming from outside the area seeking shelter in the Austin-area should continue to go to the reception center located at 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd.
Currently, The City of Austin, Travis County, Williamson County, and Hays County are in communication with the State of Texas and coastal counties to assess damage to communities along the coast. An update about returning evacuees to their home communities will be provided later today. At this time, it is critical that evacuees do not leave their shelters without first registering their entire family with hotel staff, government or a Red Cross official.
Evacuees should text “ATXShelter” to 888-777 to get updates about sheltering in the Austin area.
Meantime local organizations, like the Austin Disaster Relief Network, are stepping in to help evacuees as well.
ADRN says it's mobilized its network of staff and trained volunteers to help get evacuees settled into hotels and to help them take shelter. The group helps provide toiletries, hygiene kits, clothing and other items as needed as well as offering emotional and spiritual support.