‘Lord, we are all dislocated’: Gulf Coast evacuees in Austin await news


Late Sunday morning, as rain from Tropical Storm Harvey poured down on Austin and the state looked fearfully at an increasingly dire flood situation in Houston, Gulf Coast evacuees sheltering at the Delco Center in Northeast Austin held hands and looked to God.

“Father, we know that some of us may have some devastation back home, but you have preserved our lives,” said a man leading the impromptu interfaith circle. “Thank you for looking down on us and all those other shelters because right now, Lord, we are all dislocated.”

Residents who included Baptists, Mormons, Catholics and others requested the gathering at the shelter, as they waited out what they knew might be bad news from home. Red Cross personnel housed 185 people at the Delco Center as of Sunday morning, ranging in age from 5 months to 82 years, and are prepared for the numbers to grow as more evacuees flee the coast.

An additional 650 people from a Victoria shelter of last resort were expected to arrive in Austin Sunday evening, according to a city memo. They will be sent to Reagan High School and LBJ High School. Meanwhile, staff and volunteers are preparing Lanier Middle School to be the next shelter to open.

HARVEY IN HOUSTON: 1-2 feet of rain fall in ‘unprecedented’ storm

Rhonda Harrison, 61, a lifelong Victoria resident, isn’t usually the type to flee storms, she said. But her husband Bruce’s recent hip replacement and the couple’s other medical conditions requiring air conditioning led her to put her foot down and leave town. They fled with their Pomeranian Ciroc, who’s happily at the shelter with them.

The updates from home haven’t been good. The doors were blown completely off their home and an addition collapsed, Harrison said. Friends say there’s no water service.

“For people who procrastinated, like I would have done, who didn’t stock up on food and water, they’re just going without,” she said. “I’ve heard it looks like a war zone from a movie.”

As the interfaith service ended, state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, stopped by with a few supplies: Rugs for the children who were sitting on the concrete gym floor watching movies projected on the wall, and more-comfortable camp chairs for the evacuees with infants. Watson said he feared what was still to come from the storm.

“It’s rough,” he said. “With this amount of water, we’re going to have catastrophic and unprecedented flooding. If you don’t need to go out, don’t go out.”

The shelter has seen a steady stream of elected leaders. Saturday night, Gov. Greg Abbott served dinner to evacuees, after touring the shelter with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and Mayor Steve Adler. Sunday night, Adler and Mexican Consul General Carlos González Gutiérrez were scheduled to serve dinner.

MORE COVERAGE: 5 things to know about Tropical Storm Harvey right now

The Harrisons worry about their children, who are in Houston hunkering down as flood waters rise. Their comfort comes from the family other people at the shelter have become, they said. Rhonda Harrison said she was grateful to wake up safely Sunday morning, but felt strange not preparing to go to church, as she usually does.

The circle of evacuees sharing stories, hopes and different views of religion and ideas about what greater purpose the storm could hold, cured that.

“I needed it,” Harrison said.

STAY ON TOP OF THE WEATHER: Download the Statesman Weather app for custom weather alerts in the Apple iTunes and Google Play stores



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Austin council member denied a visit with asylum-seeker in detention
Austin council member denied a visit with asylum-seeker in detention

Advocates for a suicidal woman held at an immigrant detention center in Taylor who has alleged she was sexually assaulted by a guard have stepped up pressure on officials to release her amid reports that her health was declining. Austin City Council Member Greg Casar issued a news release Tuesday asking for the release of Laura Monterrosa, but officials...
Man arrested after chase, standoff that closed I-35 in New Braunfels

NEW BRAUNFELS Man arrested after chase, standoff that closed I-35 A San Antonio man was in custody Tuesday after a three-hour SWAT standoff with New Braunfels police that shut down Interstate 35 Monday night. Ruben Ramirez Jr., 46, faces charges of aggravated robbery, evading arrest detention with a vehicle, resisting arrest and parole violation, jail...
Suspect dies after police chase, officer-involved shooting, chief says
Suspect dies after police chase, officer-involved shooting, chief says

A man believed to have been involved in a possible kidnapping Monday night is dead after officials say he hijacked a taxicab, led officers on a chase through Southeast Austin and confronted police in a standoff that turned into a shooting. The man, who police have not yet identified, died at the Chateau at Onion Creek subdivision Monday evening after...
Read the text of Mayor Steve Adler’s State of the City address
Read the text of Mayor Steve Adler’s State of the City address

Below is the prepared text for Mayor Steve Adler’s State of the City address. This text was provided before the mayor’s speech began Tuesday evening at City Hall, and his spoken remarks may deviate from this format. Follow our live coverage on Twitter by @PhilJankowski and @Connor_Brown1. *** Mayor Pro Tem and my colleagues on the Council...
Austin gang members plead guilty in killing of 16-year-old
Austin gang members plead guilty in killing of 16-year-old

Three members of the street gang Dove Spring Gangsters have pleaded guilty to federal charges in connection to the 2015 killing of a teenager whose body was found along Onion Creek, according to court documents. Richard Ortega, Orlando Arroyo and Brian Aguayo were scheduled to go to trial Tuesday in Austin for the death of 16-year-old Darian Longoria...
More Stories