Houston residents are flocking to convention centers to flee Harvey-induced floods

Houston and Dallas are both putting victims of the severe weather in convention centers in the state

Published August 28, 2017 10:41AM (EDT)

An abandoned vehicle sits in flood waters on the I-10 highway in Houston, Texas, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017.  (AP Photo/LM Otero)
An abandoned vehicle sits in flood waters on the I-10 highway in Houston, Texas, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

As Harvey continues to batter southeastern Texas, thousands of residents from the region's two biggest cities are huddling into convention centers for shelter.

In Houston, this function is being fulfilled by the George R. Brown Convention Center, according to a report by The New York Daily News. The Daily News reported that more than 1,000 people are taking shelter in the makeshift facilities developed for them there, with the Red Cross expecting roughly 1,500 individuals to go there in total.

Nor has the George R. Brown Convention Center fully realized its potential. As one report from The Washington Post put it:

Kese Smith, a spokesman for the City of Houston, said more than 1,500 people had taken shelter in the convention center Sunday night. The 1.9 million-square-foot facility has enough room for 4,000 people. Three smaller shelters around the city had also opened their doors to storm victims.

Smith said the shelters were prepared to take on more evacuees as authorities rescued people from the rising floodwaters.

Similarly, local hospitals are working together with charitable groups and county officials in Dallas to turn the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center into a so-called "mega-shelter," according to a report by CNN. The goal is to allow it to accommodate 5,000 evacuees and for it to be open and operational by Tuesday morning.

According to a statement by Rocky Vaz, director of the Dallas Office of Emergency Management, "We have been advised by the state to be prepared for up to 5,000 evacuees, and we are committed to doing whatever it takes to accommodate our fellow Texans who may need assistance."

If the use of convention centers as shelters brings back memories of the Superdome from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, there is a good reason for that. Much as Hurricane Katrina transformed New Orleans forever, so too is Hurricane Harvey likely to have a similar impact on Texas.

As FEMA Administrator Brock Long put it, "This is a landmark event for Texas. Texas has never seen an event like this."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Convention Center Dallas Donald Trump Houston Hurricane Harvey Texas