AUSTIN, Texas - The Capital Area Shelter Hub Plan has been activated and Travis County is preparing to receive as many as 3,000 Hurricane Laura evacuees from the Texas gulf coast.
The Circuit of the Americas will serve as an intake facility processing evacuees and helping them find shelter.
Since COVID-19 hit, shelters in central Texas operations have been changed. Instead of housing evacuees in school buildings or convention centers, people will be sheltered in hotels and motels. Travis County has a list of 15 places they’ve identified as emergency shelters; some evacuees will also be housed in Hays and Williamson counties.
COVID-19 health guidelines will be in place, and evacuees are encouraged to social distance and remain in their hotels.
“We will have PPE available that’s face coverings and hand sanitizer. Things like that are needed will be available at the locations where people will be staying,” said Bryce Bencivengo with the City of Austin’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management office. “If we do have individuals that do develop symptoms or think that they have an exposure we are going to provide testing just as we would any other resident.”
The disaster response cost is expected to be reimbursed by the state. FEMA and President Trump granted the governor’s disaster declaration request, freeing up federal dollars earlier this week.
Depending on how hard Hurricane Laura hits the Gulf Coast, evacuees may be in Austin and the surrounding area for a few days or weeks.
“This is a situation where we can be over cautious and it misses us and we send people home within a few days but it can also be an extended operation for multiple days and into weeks so we are preparing for that,” said Bencivengo.
If hotel rooms designated for evacuees fill up, there’s a plan for that too.
“If it should get so bad that there’s too many people for available hotel rooms, we are prepared to do congregate sheltering. We’ve been doing that in some other parts of the country, but we need more space in each shelter to space people out really far,” said Marty McKellips, regional executive for the Red Cross South and Central Texas region.
The Red Cross is asking for 700 volunteers to help with sheltering procedures in the region, 70 percent of them will do so virtually.
To volunteer or donate to relief efforts, click here.