DALLAS - There are now two shelters open in Dallas with more than 400 evacuees thus far. More are expected over the next few days as torrential rains lead to more flooding on the Texas coast.
The Dallas Office of Emergency Management opened the first shelter at the Walnut Hill Recreation Center Friday afternoon. A second shelter has opened at the Tommie Allen Recreation Center on Saturday.
South Texan Michelle Harrison and her family arrived at the second shelter after fighting traffic Friday. They were thankful for a box of cereal, bread and a bag of belongings.
“We hadn’t eaten. We just stayed in the car on the side of the road last night. We didn’t even know where to go,” she said.
She clenched a photo of her three children who stayed with their father in San Antonio. She’s worried about their safety with the threat of catastrophic flooding.
“You work so hard, and then just something like this can come and just wipe everything that you work so hard for. And it can be just completely gone in just a matter of seconds. And then where do you go? And I can’t even get to my kids,” Harrison said.
Michael Padilla fled his home in Angleton, which is about 40 miles south of Houston. He was greeted by fellow church members who made the trek north for shelter with cake.
“It’s a very hard situation to be in,” he said. “I understand that they might be hurting inside but to help them out and to see that we’re here together.”
Parental instinct told Dwight Timmons to pack up his five children. He has no idea if water has seeped into his Houston home but he didn’t want to risk it. Houston always floods, he said.
“I’m not going to take my chances with my family,” he said.
Unlike after Hurricane Katrina when Dallas County opened one mega shelter. This time around the plan is to just open up smaller shelters at recreational centers throughout the Metroplex.
“It’s preferable for families to be in a small shelter where they can know their surroundings than be in a large parking garage with thousands of people. There are all kinds of problems that happen when you have to open these mega shelters that are logistical headaches for us and the people that are there aren’t there with the smaller shelters,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.
Jenkins said the county will open a mega shelter if absolutely necessary.
“If we have to open a mega shelter we will make sure it is safe. We have drilled for that. That is just not my preference,” he said.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings was at the Walnut Hill Recreation Center shelter on Saturday. He said he just wanted to make sure things were going smoothly.
“It’s great to see these emergency workers spring into action to take care of all these families. The smiles on the faces of these South Texas families are very scared. It’s nice we are so welcoming,” he said.
The American Red Cross is also at the shelters to assist with the families' needs and provide them with any emergency supplies and resources.
Anyone driving to the area and needing a place to stay is asked to call 211 for info on shelters and where to go.