Hurricane Laura marks a new way of handling mass evacuations

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The Texas Department of Emergency Management set up what they call reception centers.

AUSTIN, Texas — It’s a new way to handle storm evacuees.

In San Antonio, busses of Hurricane Laura evacuees arrived early Wednesday morning to a parking lot at 254 Gembler Road.

In Austin, evacuees lined up outside the Circuit of the Americas racetrack.

Early Wednesday morning, some evacuees were turned away until emergency management could find more space.

In the Dallas and Ft. Worth areas, evacuees have two options: nearby Mesquite or in Ellis County.


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None of the locations have shelters. Instead, a new way of handling evacuations because of COVID-19.

The State calls them reception centers. It’s a place to process evacuees. The people will get a voucher to sleep in a nearby hotel.

“The best thing we can do is getting people into hotels where they’re relatively isolated from other people,” said Kristy Dahl, senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Kristy Dahl co-authored a study of evacuation scenarios during a pandemic. Her data shows evacuee placement can drastically impact COVID-19 numbers.

Where people go could lower excess COVID-19 cases from more than 50,000 to about 5,000.

“It really speaks to the fact that there are things that we can do to minimize that increase in cases,” said Dahl.

As of Wednesday afternoon, TDEM showed the amount of people staying in a state-funded hotel room is 3,309.

RELATED: Beaumont college students find refuge at Texas State during Hurricane Laura