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City prepares to host Ike evacuees, watching for heavy weather

Friday, September 12, 2008 by Austin Monitor

The City of Austin opened its first evacuation shelter late Wednesday night at the Delco center for people fleeing the Texas coast ahead of Hurricane Ike. Officials say the regional shelter plan has identified 75 locations that could house evacuees, and the system has room for up to 25,000 people at official shelters.


Buses left the Galveston area on Thursday carrying evacuees. City officials expected up to 2,000 people from that town to arrive late Thursday night or sometime today. As for how many people will eventually take advantage of the shelters, “it’s difficult to say or predict. You’re getting folks that are doing self-evacuation,” said Assistant City Manager Bert Lumbreras. “It just depends on the folks that show up at our door.”


The Seton Family of Hospitals on Thursday also began accepting some evacuees with special medical needs. “We will distribute patients between all of our sites,” said Seton President and CEO Charles Barnett. The only Seton facility that is not scheduled to house evacuees, he said, is the University Medical Center at Brackenridge, “so that we can keep the University Medical Center’s trauma center from being clogged up with transfers.” More than 60 of the 72 evacuees with special medical needs who came to the Austin area ahead of Hurricane Gustav are still in local hospitals or nursing facilities.


Although it is now appearing less likely that Hurricane Ike will travel directly through Central Texas, officials with Austin Energy are still on alert for any power outages caused by strong winds this weekend. “We have 40 crews on standby for restoration and an additional 40 tree-trimming crews on standby,” said Austin Energy General Manager Roger Duncan. “We have also reached out to other utilities in other states to assist us if we do have major outages.” Customers who do experience outages this weekend should report them by calling 322-9100.


Other electricity providers, including the Pedernales Electric Co-Op, are also implementing their emergency plans. “We’ve put on call all our construction crews, our contract crews, and our tree-trimming crews…so they’ll be available to work, should there be an outage,” said PEC Communications Manager Michael Racis. If Central Texas escapes major damage, Racis said, the co-op could then allow those crews to go to more heavily affected areas of the state to help with repairs.

Officials with the Red Cross say they are likely to need additional volunteers to handle the influx of people in the Austin area. The Red Cross at 2913 Northland Dr. has opened a Volunteer Resource Center to process volunteers who want to help with the response to Ike. For information on volunteering, go the local Red Cross website.

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