Austin Convention Center will become a mega shelter for Harvey evacuees

Red Cross at the Austin Convention Center on Aug. 28, 2017 (KXAN Photo/Erin Cargile)
Red Cross at the Austin Convention Center on Aug. 28, 2017 (KXAN Photo/Erin Cargile)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The number of people heading to Austin impacted by Hurricane Harvey could rise drastically. State officials asked the city if it can house 7,000 evacuees from the Gulf Coast.

Mayor Steve Adler says officials are turning the Austin Convention Center into a mega shelter that will be able to house 2,500 guests. After Hurricane Katrina, the city hosted 4,000 evacuees at the convention center. The city plans to move people out of existing shelters to the mega shelter within the next two days.

Shelter preps at the Austin Convention Center on Aug. 29, 2017. (KXAN Photo)
Shelter preps at the Austin Convention Center on Aug. 29, 2017. (KXAN Photo)

In an emergency city council meeting on Tuesday morning, Adler said, “We pretty much dodged the bullet here in Austin, but we will do everything we can to help others.”

On Monday all Red Cross operations for Central and South Texas were set up at the convention center. A spokesperson for the Red Cross says the organization is working quickly to be prepared for the thousands of people they expect to see.

“This is a very large operation,” said Red Cross Spokesperson Matthew Teter. “This is certainly an operation where we know we have hundreds of thousands of people who are affected and displaced in one way or another.”

Crews worked Tuesday morning to remove hundreds of chairs from exhibit halls and put tape down to mark where thousands of cots will be placed.

There are currently 563 evacuees in Austin spread across four shelters. A little under 200 are staying at the Delco Center, others are at LBJ High School, the Toney Burger Activity Center and the University of Texas J.J. Pickle Research Campus in north Austin was also set up as a shelter to serve people with special medical needs.

At the Convention Center, Red Cross says it is setting up for the long haul. “There will be limited medical care available, mental health support, comfort, we’ll have various activities for children,” said Teter. “We are here for as long as they need us.”

KXAN has also learned Reagan High School is set up as a shelter, and ready to receive about 200 people. Other Austin ISD high school have been put on standby.

The Commissioners Court also approved the use of the Travis County Exposition Center at 7311 Decker Ln. as a shelter, serving as a backup to city facilities.

During the emergency meeting, the city says it is also looking at additional locations for another 4,000 people.

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