Dallas Convention Center preps for Harvey evacuees, others arrive by air

DALLAS -- It's looking a lot like 2005 in downtown Dallas with the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center packed with forklifts, cots, and blankets.

Like Hurricane Katrina 12 years ago, millions are stranded in Houston's high waters.

"It may be 48 more hours before those roads are available," Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said Monday.

Thousands of those are destined for Dallas as soon as they can escape Harvey's high waters, joining the more than 500 who are staying in temporary shelters at the Walnut Hill, Tommie Allen, and Samuell Grand Recreation Centers.

5,000 cots, along with medical, food, and charging areas are being assembled in the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center for Houston evacuees.

"I'm not saying it's going to happen, but we've been asked to prepare for numbers that could be up in the tens of thousands," Rawlings said.

The Hutchison Convention Center is ready for 5,000, and Hurricane Katrina taught the City of Dallas to be prepared for everything.

"We are setting up a whole new medical, almost a mini-hospital," Dallas Office of Emergency Management Director Rocky Vaz said.

That will be complete with a pharmacy.

"We have a separate feeding area, we have dorm area, we're going to have charging stations," Vaz promised.

They thought about the animals, too. Vaz said animals of Hutchison 'residents' will be kept in a temporary shelter inside the old Reunion Arena garage. The SPCA of Texas and Dallas Animal Services are teaming up to take care of however many pets need it.

By the way, wondering how Dallas is going to pay for this? Rawlings and Vaz said all costs of care in the shelters is 100 percent reimbursable by the State of Texas. As for other costs that could be incurred by having thousands of more people in town? Rawlings said Katrina taught a valuable lesson there, leading to the establishment of extra foundations that have the money to handle the situation.

Passengers wait to board humanitarian evacuation flights from Houston's Hobby Airport to Dallas Love Field Sunday. (Courtesy: Micah Garb)

While many wait, nearly 500 people trapped at Houston's Hobby Airport found their Dallas reprieve Sunday night.

"It was basically presented as, 'Everybody on board. We're going to get you to Dallas, and we'll go from there,'" traveler Micah Garb recounted to NewsFix. "Believe me, no one wanted to be anywhere other than out of Houston."

The Garb family was supposed to have a 90-minute layover at Hobby, a connector flight at the end of a Costa Rica vacation. The layover turned into 24 hours. They hoped to at least get out of the airport, but by the time their flight was canceled, roads were impassable. It was looking like maybe they'd be stuck at the airport until Wednesday or Thursday.

"The amount of rain is like nothing I've ever seen. It was just relentless and all through the next day," Garb said.

Then came the unlikely announcement that the FAA approved Southwest to fly humanitarian evacuation flights in a small window Sunday.

"Once we lifted off there was applause, and it was a good feeling," Garb said. "We're really grateful to be away and headed home to where we live, but there's a lot of people down there who aren't nearly so lucky. I hope everyone who sees this takes a minute and reaches out."

Want to help Dallas' effort to house our Houstonians? Check out the city's new Hurricane Harvey website.