Dallas preps 'mega shelter' for 5,000 Harvey evacuees

The city of Dallas is preparing to open the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center to house up to 5,000 evacuees from South Texas.

Mayor Mike Rawlings says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner asked him to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

“We’re getting ready to be the neighbors and the friends of South Texans that we know we can be,” Rawlings said Monday morning.

In addition to food, clothes and cots, the mega shelter will provide them with medical and pharmacy services.

The city is working on a website to let North Texans know what supplies and donations are needed such as new underwear, new socks, new warm-ups for men, women, children and infants, toiletries/hygiene products, baby formula and baby wipes, bottles, diapers and the Graco Pac n' Plays for babies to sleep in.

For now, donations can be dropped off items at 15660 N. Dallas Parkway, just north of Arapaho on the north side of the Parkway. The donations center will open daily from 3 to 8 p.m. daily.

HOW TO HELP: North Texans and Hurricane Harvey

The mayor stressed that those willing to volunteers should not just show up to help. All volunteers at the shelter must go through a background check first. Information on how to go through that process will be added to the city’s website.

Dallas ISD is also planning to enroll student evacuees in school as soon as Tuesday. The district is also working with the Texas Education Agency for help providing food for students.

"We will have various elementary school and high school sites made available in the event they are looking at enrolling in one of our schools," explained Robyn Harris with DISD.

A shelter for pets will be set up in the old Reunion Arena parking garage. The SPCA of Texas and Dallas Animal Services are working together to get that area set up.

Rawlings said there is a chance more than 5,000 evacuees will come through Dallas. The city is looking at other possible locations for shelters and working with the mayors of other North Texas cities.

"We may have thousands upon thousands upon thousands more individuals that will get even bigger than this convention center can hold," Rawlings said. "Not saying it's gonna happen, but we're told to prepare for folks for numbers that can be up in the tens of thousands."

Three smaller shelters are already open at the Walnut Hill Rec Center in northwest Dallas, the Tommie Allen Rec Center in Oak Cliff and the Samuel Grand Rec Center in Old East Dallas.

Harris County resident Miriam Abeja is one of more than 500 evacuees already in Dallas. She said she knew she had to get out before the storm.

“We really took it seriously. My family, we didn’t think about it. We gotta go. This might be catastrophic. We called my family members and said we should just leave and pack,” she said.

William Steed and his family showed up to seeking refuge. He doesn't think they'll have any home to return to.

"I already know we did," he said. "It's already underwater."

Kristal Braddock came to Dallas from Pasadena, just southeast of Houston.

"I just know the street to my home was flooded as well, and other people around me have been flooded out of their homes," she said. "I'm hopeful. I'm keeping my faith."

Braddock, the mother of seven, got a welcome surprise Monday morning when buses showed up to take her kids to school. Three buses took roughly 40 kids to Good Shepherd Episcopal School.

Head of School, Julie McLeod, said her students welcomed the evacuees as if they were classmates.

"One little girl in particular stuck to her friend like glue," she explained.

City of Dallas Website: How to help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey

Meanwhile, the city of Austin is also expecting up to 7,000 evacuees. Fort Worth and other cities around Texas will also welcome flood victims.