The City of Dallas says it still has available hotel rooms for evacuees from Hurricane Laura, but the emergency management director says he expects additional evacuees to pull into the city.
The hurricane made landfall around 1 a.m. Thursday.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, Dallas could not open a large shelter at Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. Instead, cities and counties across Texas are contracting with hotels to ensure capacity requirements and social distancing guidelines are met.
Thursday evening, Rocky Vaz, Dallas' emergency management director, said the city had 285 hotel rooms under contract. Of those 285 rooms, 92 had already been reserved for 185 people.
But Vaz says more evacuees were likely to arrive in Dallas because hotels in San Antonio and Austin had filled up. He says 16 buses of evacuees had arrived in North Texas, and others drove themselves.
"We have thousands of people who have self-evacuated. They're driving up, not finding hotels, and driving up to the DFW area," Vaz says. "We have a scarcity of hotel rooms in Dallas right now."
In addition to evacuees who could not find a room in Central Texas, Vaz says he has learned from Hurricanes Harvey, Ike and Katrina that additional evacuees may still arrive from the coast. He says people may continue arriving in North Texas for a week to ten days.
"This event is not over by any means. We have seen in the past, the after-landfall event is even larger, depending on the amount of damage or the amount of people who are displaced," he says.
Vaz says Dallas can draw from previous experience with departments working together. He says Dallas Fire Rescue is providing EMT services at the hotel, police are providing security, the office of Homeless Solutions is coordinating the room assignments and Dallas Animal Services is helping people with pets.
If hotels continue filling up in Dallas, Vaz says he is working with counterparts in nearby cities, including Irving and Richardson, to find additional space.