Some 10,000 Ambit Energy consultants were set to fill Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center (KBHCC) in Dallas starting tomorrow for the annual, three-day Ambition Convention. Now they are being joined by thousands of evacuees seeking safety from the deluge of rain and rising floodwaters along the Texas Gulf Coast who will begin using the convention facility as a mega-shelter.
Texas state officials asked the city of Dallas to make the facility ready to accommodate 5,000 Hurricane Harvey victims. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings says the mega shelter will be ready to house evacuees from Galveston sometime today.
City officials began preparing the lower-level, air-conditioned garage as a shelter on Sunday. It will include a medical facility capable of offering basic medical care. The exhibit halls above will continue to operate as normally as possible, at least for now.
The city is currently operating three additional shelters at recreation centers that are near capacity.
Rawlings said more than 500 people from Galveston will be flown to North Texas today. Evacuees from Houston will begin arriving once Interstate 45 reopens.
“The state has eight, nine different planes, and we will be receiving at Love Field, 50 to 80 people on each of those flights,” Rawlings told NBC 5, a Dallas-Fort Worth television station. “There will be individuals, their animals as well, and we will start to triage those individuals and figure out where we can put them.”
Rocky Vaz, director of the Dallas Office of Emergency Management, said, “We are committed to doing whatever it takes to accommodate our fellow Texans who may need assistance.” Several city departments, Red Cross, Dallas County, Parkland Hospital, the Salvation Army, Children’s Hospital and numerous volunteer agencies and organizations worked to have the convention center shelter up and running and ready to take in guests.
Still, the convention center and other shelters in Dallas may not be nearly enough.
“We have approximately 740,000 people who live in this hurricane watch area of 30 counties,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. “We have a maximum capacity—if we open all shelters, both private and public, in Texas –of about 41,000 shelter spaces. So, that’s right at 700,000 people who we don’t have shelter space for. What I’m asking is, if your cousin who is a pain in the neck asks to sleep on your couch for a few days, let the cousin sleep on the couch.”
Claire Mathison, multi-channel marketing coordinator, for Ambit Energy, a Dallas-based marketing company that provides electricity and natural gas services in energy markets in the United States that have been deregulated, told Smart Meetings the company’s event “is moving forward, with great consideration for the evacuees at KBHCC. Ambit has made a $25,000 donation to the Red Cross to support relief efforts, and we’ve encouraged our consultants to do their part and donate to the Red Cross as well.”