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Hurricane Laura evacuees find shelter here

Thursday, August 27, 2020 by Jo Clifton

As the high-powered hurricane named Laura barreled toward the Texas and Louisiana coast Wednesday, thousands of people heeded the warning that the storm would be “unsurvivable,” and headed north. At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Steve Adler noted that the city had put a little more than 3,000 Gulf Coast guests fleeing the storm into more than 1,000 Austin hotel rooms. Adler called 2020 “a doozy,” as he reported that the city had paid for those rooms, but others had booked their own rooms. However, new arrivals who were directed to the Circuit of the Americas were being asked to travel on to the Dallas/Fort Worth area or Ellis County. Adler and Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe issued disaster declarations in response to the hurricane, allowing the city and county to access funding for the emergency. Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden said Austinites do not need to provide assistance to the evacuees at this time. The Red Cross and the Austin Disaster Relief Network were providing help and could use financial assistance, she said. Juan Ortiz, the city’s director of homeland security and emergency management, noted that when Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast in 2017, the city had only about 850 evacuees. “We’re over 3,000 and Laura has not made landfall yet … There may be more.” Hayden said part of the convention center was also being set up to provide shelter, but she emphasized that the city was taking measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Eric Carter, chief emergency management coordinator for Travis County, noted that teams from Williamson and Hays counties were working with Travis County and the city of Austin to support the evacuees.

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