Austin Area Prepares To Receive Hurricane Laura Evacuees

·6 min read

AUSTIN, TX — The Capital Area Shelter Hub Plan — covering Austin and Travis County along with Williamson and Hays counties — was activated on Tuesday at the request of state officials to start receiving evacuees from coastal communities impacted by Hurricane Laura.

The state-directed plan will be coordinated out of the Austin-Travis County Emergency Operations Center in addition to ongoing COVID-19 activation, city officials said.

The City of Austin Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Travis County Office of Emergency Management have been reviewing and altering the Capital Area Shelter Hub Plan to prepare to respond to sheltering needs during a pandemic since earlier this summer, officials noted.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in substantial changes to the plan to shelter evacuees," officials added. "These changes include assigning evacuees to hotels instead of a few or single large congregate shelter. At this time, the planned locations to receive evacuees and the locations of hotels for evacuees are not being made public."

According to forecasters, Hurricane Laura strengthened on Tuesday morning above the southern Gulf of Mexico, with conditions ripe for even further strengthening. "Laura is predicted to become a major hurricane prior to landfall on the upper Texas or southwest Louisiana coasts," forecasters wrote. "Life-threatening storm surge and damaging winds will affect areas near where Laura makes landfall."

The threat of Laura extends well beyond Texas, officials said, posting an inland flood risk as far north as Arkansas or southern Missouri. Isolated tornadoes are also expected from Laura, weather officials added.

"Hurricane Laura is expected to intensify over the Gulf of Mexico and become a major hurricane prior to striking the upper Texas or southwest Louisiana coasts late Wednesday or early Thursday," officials wrote. "Life-threatening storm surge and destructive winds will batter the coast and a threat of flooding rain and strong winds will extend well inland."

Residents along the upper Texas and southwest Louisiana coasts are highly urged to prepare now for a hurricane strike while following any evacuation orders issued by local or state officials.

For the most up-to-date information about city operations and traffic conditions, monitor City of Austin social media on Twitter (@austintexasgov) or the city website at

According to the Texas governor's office, a number of coastal communities are under evacuation orders, both mandatory and voluntary:


  • Jasper County, 8/25/20

  • Jefferson County, 8/24/20

  • Orange County, 8/25/20

  • City of Galveston, 8/25/20

  • City of Port Arthur, 8/25/20


  • Chambers County, 8/24/2020

  • Brazoria County, 8/24/2020

  • City of Nassau Bay, 8/24/2020

  • City of Seabrook, 8/24/2020

  • City of Tiki Island, 8/25/2020

  • City of Jamaica Beach, 8/25/2020

  • Bolivar Peninsula, 8/25/2020

  • City of Baytown (Zip code specific: 77520 and 77523 for vulnerable populations in low-lying areas), 8/25/2020

Photo provided by the Texas governor's office.

Gov. Greg Abbott staged a news conference on Tuesday at the Alternate State Operations Center in Austin to provide an update on the state's response to Hurricane Laura. The governor also received a briefing from the Texas Division of Emergency Management that included an update on response and preparedness efforts from state agency directors and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. During the news conference, Abbott said he added 36 counties to his State Disaster Declaration due to the threat of severe rain, wind and flooding.

View the Governor's proclamation adding more counties to his State Disaster Declaration.

Abbott discussed the threat of high winds as well as life-threatening storm surge where Hurricane Laura makes landfall. He also discussed evacuation efforts throughout the state, and announced that reception centers in San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin would open later in the day. The state is providing buses to transport Texans that are evacuating, Abbott said. There are also more than 225,000 hotel rooms available across the state to provide shelter to evacuees, he added.

A full list of mandatory and voluntary evacuations can be found on the Texas Hurricane Center web page. Gov. Abbott urged Texans to take action now to protect themselves and their property.

"Hurricane Laura is rapidly intensifying and poses a major threat to communities in Southeast Texas and along the coast," Abbott said. "Texans in the path of this storm should waste no time preparing for the impact of Hurricane Laura and take immediate action to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. I urge our Southeast and coastal communities to heed the guidance of local officials, follow evacuation orders, and remain vigilant as we brace for the impact of Hurricane Laura. The State of Texas will continue to monitor this storm and provide the resources needed to keep Texans safe."

On Tuesday, Hurricane Laura was upgraded from tropical storm status to a Category 1 hurricane but is expected to gain strength to a Category 3 or 4 hurricane as it makes landfall over Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Additional state resources have been rostered to help respond to Hurricane Laura, the governor said. The following resources and personnel have been activated:

  • Texas A&M Forest Service: Incident management teams, chain saw crews, firefighting strike teams, and water evacuation and rescue teams.

  • Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service: Urban search and rescue teams and swift water rescue teams, including Texas A&M Task Force 1 and 2.

  • Texas A&M Agrilife: Agents positioned to support emergency operations centers and disaster finance teams.

  • Texas Military Department: High profile water rescue vehicles, airplanes and helicopters for evacuation and rescue, shelter management teams, evacuee tracking network teams, 6th Civilian Response Team available for Hazmat response.

  • Texas Department of Public Safety: Rescue helicopters, command and control airplanes, swift water rescue boat teams, flood response boat teams, dive boat teams, as well as Troopers, agents, and Rangers to assist local Law Enforcement with evacuation and securing evacuated areas.

  • Texas Parks and Wildlife: Game Wardens, State Park Police, swift water rescue boats, Shallow water evacuation boats, air boats, incident management teams, and a helicopter rescue team.

  • Texas Department of State Health Services: Emergency Medical Task Force (EMTF) Ambuses, EMTF ambulances, EMTF Medical incident management and support teams.

  • Texas Department of Transportation: High profile water rescue vehicles, traffic control devices, and flood protection barriers.

  • Texas Commission on Environmental Quality: Water and waste water monitoring teams and hazmat response teams.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Public Utility Commission are also assisting in response efforts. For more information on the state's response to Hurricane Laura, as well as resources for those impacted by the storm, visit the Texas Hurricane Center.

Reception centers for evacuees:

  • San Antonio (opened at 3 p.m. on Tuesday), 254 Gembler Rd., San Antonio, TX 78219.

  • Austin (opened at 4 p.m. Tuesday), Circuit of the Americas, 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd., Austin, TX 78617.

  • Dallas Fort-Worth (Opening at 7 p.m. Tuesday), Mesquite Reception Center, 15515 E. IH-20, Mesquite, TX 75181.

  • Ellis County (open at 7 p.m. on Tuesday), Knights of Columbus Hall, 850 S IH-45, Ennis, TX 75119.

This article originally appeared on the Austin Patch