Gov. Abbott opens evacuation sites as Hurricane Laura approaches Texas Gulf coast


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Any Texan within 100 miles of Hurricane Laura’s projected cone needs to take precautions as the storm in the Gulf of Mexico heads toward southeast Texas and Louisiana, Gov. Greg Abbott said on Tuesday.

Hurricane Laura is expected to grow more powerful before making landfall late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.

Gov. Greg Abbott provided an update Tuesday afternoon about the state’s preparations for Hurricane Laura. Abbott announced the activation of numerous emergency teams, the opening of evacuation sites across the state and extended the disaster declaration to 59 total Texas counties.

Mandatory evacuations are in place for Jasper, Jefferson, Newton, and Orange County along with the cities of Galveston and Port Arthur, Abbott said.

Austin’s Circuit of the Americas opened Tuesday afternoon as a reception/processing center for evacuees. Those people will be directed to hotels/motels from COTA.

The first buses of evacuees arrives at Circuit of the Americas in south Austin (KXAN/Alex Hoder)

The City of Austin, Travis County, Hays County and Williamson County announced Tuesday afternoon that they are activating their shelter plan to potentially receive evacuees because of the storm.

A site in San Antonio opened Tuesday afternoon at 254 Gembler Road. There is an additional site in northeast Dallas County at the Mesquite Reception/Convention Center expected to open Tuesday evening.

However, Gov. Abbott is asking anyone seeking shelter from the storm to consider using hotels in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Abbott says there is an abundance of hotel rooms available, allowing families to isolate safely from the storm and COVID-19.

Chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management Nim Kidd said the state will be providing personal protective equipment to evacuation centers. When shelters are opened, the state plans to have COVID-19 testing available for anyone staying at a shelter.

Hurricane Laura is expected to be a fast moving storm with high winds as a main threat. The storm could be out of Texas by the end of Thursday, but it will bring devastation to East Texas, Gov. Abbott said. As the storm makes landfall, Abbott estimates there will be a water surge potentially as high as 10 feet on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Gov. Abbott has deployed 200 buses and 152 high water vehicles in response to the storm. The Texas A&M Forest Service is providing incident management teams. Chainsaw crews will be available to help clean up downed trees in the “heavily-wooded” East Texas.

Additionally. Abbott says anyone within the cone of Hurricane Laura should prepare to lose power.

Abbott added disaster declarations for 36 more Texas counties on Tuesday, taking the total to 59. 

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