The city of Fort Worth is preparing to provide shelter for hundreds of people evacuating from the coast ahead of Hurricane Laura.
Mike Drivdahl with the Fort Worth Fire Department said they estimate to shelter between 300 and 400 people but are prepared to take more in, if needed.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said they expect between the first 50 and 100 people to arrive Wednesday night. A disaster declaration was issued this week in response to the hurricane.
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"Anytime there’s a statewide disaster that we’re going to be assisting in, we have to pass a declaration of disaster to be reimbursed for funds and to make us a designated point for evacuees," Mayor Price explained Wednesday.
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The city would typically utilize large spaces such as the Fort Worth Convention Center, Will Rogers Memorial Center, and the Wilkerson-Greines Activities Center. However, Drivdahl said the evacuation process will be different this year due to the ongoing pandemic and the need to maintain social distance.
“The approach that we are using at this point is a hotel type approach, where we will shelter those people in hotels and that way, they are self-isolated in their unit,” he said. “In my mind, it could be something that we look at in the future and say is this better option? We’ve done things for so long that there’s always a good time to look at what we’ve done and see if we can do anything better.”
So far, city officials have identified at least one hotel they will be utilizing. The location will not be disclosed to the public at this time for privacy and logistical reasons, Drivdahl said.
Before donations from the public flow in, he said they want to make sure people who have been evacuated have a seamless experience getting settled.
“While we appreciate everyone wanting to do something, when people start bringing loads and loads and loads of clothing… it’s another thing we have to designate people to go through and sort through those clothes and find places for those clothes,” Drivdahl told NBC 5. “Right now at the beginning of this process, it does make it very difficult on us to take people away from an operation to handle those donations.”
Regarding donations and support, he added the city is not in need right now. Instead, they are asking the public to wait until a specific request is made.
17 firefighters from the Fort Worth Fire Department are currently deployed to assist with evacuations and rescues on the coast.