‘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

Lakeway City Council discusses citizen engagement measures
Lakeway City Council discusses citizen engagement measures

A couple city council members want the city of Lakeway to up its efforts at engaging the community, and are proposing several measures to accomplish this. During the Nov. 20 council meeting, Councilwoman Jean Hennagin made a presentation for a Lakeway “engagement committee,” and put forward ideas brainstormed along with Councilman Keith...
Transgender Day of Remembrance held outside Austin City Hall
Transgender Day of Remembrance held outside Austin City Hall

The tone of the Transgender Day of Remembrance event held outside Austin City Hall on Monday evening was, as always, a bittersweet mix of hope and sadness as organizers and attendees proclaimed their pride to be transgender and mourned the loss of transgender individuals who were killed this year. For years, Austin has participated in the international...
EAST AUSTIN FIRE: Mobile home blaze in Bastrop Highway under control, officials say
EAST AUSTIN FIRE: Mobile home blaze in Bastrop Highway under control, officials say

A fire at a mobile home located in East Austin near U.S. 183 is now under control, Austin fire officials said Monday night.  The structure at the 500 block of Bastrop Highway was heavily involved when the fire was reported about 10 p.m., officials said. The mobile home was abandoned and no one was injured, officials said. 
U.S. 183, I-35 projects waver after Abbott, Patrick trash tolls
U.S. 183, I-35 projects waver after Abbott, Patrick trash tolls

Several key Central Texas highway projects — including expansions of U.S. 183 in North Austin, U.S. 290 in Southwest Austin and Interstate 35 through the heart of the area — are once again in limbo after Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick last week staked out firm anti-toll positions. “Right now there’s a billion dollars...
UPDATE: Fire at downtown Hilton hotel now out, fire officials say 
UPDATE: Fire at downtown Hilton hotel now out, fire officials say 

11:30 p.m. update: The Hilton Hotel in downtown Austin was partially evacuated Monday night after a dryer malfunction on the third floor, Austin fire officials said. Firefighters responded around 7:15 p.m., and all guests were allowed back in around 10 p.m. The fire was confined to a laundry room, but the fire is estimated to have caused $200...
More Stories