AUSTIN, Texas - Floodwaters covered part of the Old Town District in Galveston Thursday morning, but with no major storm damage in the area, the evacuation order here was lifted.
The all-clear signal was welcomed news for Lucy Martinez and her family, who had evacuated to Austin and after an uneasy stay were more than ready to head back to Houston
“Kind of nerve-racking not knowing what to expect thank God nothing happened we are glad to be heading back home finding our home the way we left it,” said Martinez.
Gov. Greg Abbott flew over the Southeast Texas coastline Thursday morning. Most of the damage he saw torn rooftops, down power lines, broken trees, and crushed metal buildings. “We dodged a bullet, it could have been far worse,” he said.
The “unsurvivable” storm surge that was predicted did not hit Texas, but about three feet of water did sweep through. Hardest hit was Orange County, which is located next to the Louisiana border. The governor, and the politicians who stood with him during the briefing, pledged a fast recovery response. They also promised to help those on the other side of the Sabine River.
“The damage in Louisiana is significantly greater but given the magnitude of the storm it could have been so much worse,” said U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Lake Charles was hit hard by Hurricane Laura. Windows were shattered out of a high-rise. Power lines and communication towers toppled. Homes were smashed by storm surge and gale-force winds. The images are heartbreaking for those who evacuated to Austin like Jarell Bellows
“It’s been crazy I don’t know if we are going to go back to anything at all you don’t know if we have trees on the house don’t know if my vehicle is going to be all right going to pray about it and see what happens when we get home,” said Bellows.
It’s estimated about 3000 people stayed in Austin hotels, with a few also at the convention center. It opened late Wednesday after city officials closed a transition hub at the Circuit of the Americas.
County breakdown of shelters:
- Bell County: 35 hotel rooms utilized
- Hays County: 65 hotel rooms utilized
- Travis County: 795 hotel rooms utilized and the Austin Convention Center
- Williamson County: 197 hotel rooms utilized
Being forced out of town initially angered some evacuees but by Thursday morning the focus was no longer on hard feelings, but on hard times awaiting them.
“We left a lot behind. We had a lot to lose, we have a lot to lose,” said Janice Jackson and Russell Rougeau who evacuated from Lake Charles.
FEMA officials with the city of Austin late Thursday released a statement regarding those who came to town to escape the Hurricane.
“Many evacuees in the Austin area came from the Galveston area; that area is no longer under a mandatory evacuation. Individuals who arrived by personal vehicle can return after they have registered their entire traveling party with either hotel staff, a government official, or Red Cross. Individuals who arrived by bus will be returning home Friday morning, August 28. For individuals unable to return to their home communities, we are preparing to shelter those individuals for the longer term. Depending on the number of people remaining in the Austin area after August 28, we may consolidate shelters in the coming days.”
Texting to “ATXShelter” provides updates.
Before the storm hit there was the fear that Hurricane Laura would be a mass casualty event. That didn’t happen. The governor credited some divine intervention for that. “That is a miracle it shows that prayers were answered that so many people cared about their neighbors that preparation paid off,” he said.
Being thankful also came with a warning from Chief Nim Kidd who leads the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
“We had a great plan we had a good response we will have a swift recovery and as Chairman Phelan said, we are not out of hurricane season...this is the time to double down and get ready for the next one,” said Chief Kidd.
Authorities Thursday morning tried to confirm a possible storm-related death in Sabine Pass. The governor indicated that assistance will be provided to local communities to help them with debris removal.