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Texas to House Louisiana Refugees in Astrodome

Location: Houston, TX

Texas to House Louisiana Refugees in Astrodome

Perry: "We are all in this together."

At the urgent request of Louisiana Gov. Blanco, today Gov. Rick Perry agreed to receive 23,000 Hurricane victims currently taking shelter in the New Orleans Superdome at the Houston Astrodome, which Harris County officials agreed to turn into a long-term shelter. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will dispatch 500 buses to Louisiana and transport the 23,000 people currently taking shelter in the Superdome. The state has also worked with Jefferson County officials to convert the Ford Center in Jefferson County into a long term shelter to house victims of Hurricane Katrina

"We are all in this together," Perry said. "We will continue to do what it takes, from offering assistance to offering prayers, to get through this together, as one American Family."

Perry's office yesterday discussed with Harris County Judge Robert Eckels the idea of turning the Astrodome into a long-term shelter to meet the housing, food and medical needs of those already stranded here in Texas. The Astrodome's schedule has already been cleared until December.

"As people currently taking refuge in hotels and begin to run short on resources, we expect there will be a growing need for shelters beyond the many we have identified and opened to this date, so we will continue to pursue contingency arrangements," Perry said. "In the face of such tragic circumstances, we all have to pull together so these families have as much normalcy as possible during these difficult times."

Perry also noted that this crisis will be especially hard on children who have been suddenly uprooted from their daily routine, including school. Under federal law these children are considered homeless and are entitled to enroll in the school district where they temporarily reside.

"I want stranded families to know the doors of Texas' public schools are immediately open to your school-aged children," Perry said. "I also want school leaders to know that we realize this will put a strain on their capacity, so I have asked the Texas Education Agency to work them to make sure they have the textbooks they need, funding for transportation and the free-and-reduced lunch program and class size waivers as needed."

Perry also said that the State of Florida has made an urgent request for a two-week supply of gasoline because of a pipeline disruption caused by Katrina.

"To meet this need, I have asked the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to exercise enforcement discretion to allow for the loading of fuel from a refinery site in Port Arthur on marine vessels that will transport this fuel to Florida," Perry said. "We are coordinating with the Environmental Protection Agency concerning any regulatory waivers needed to meet this urgent need."

Texas assets dedicated to hurricane Katrina assistance efforts :

* Deployment of Texas Task Force One's 80-member elite urban search and rescue team to Louisiana.
* Deployment of Texas Task Force One's 35-member water rescue team, which is comprised of 5 boat squads.
* Activation of 200 members of the Texas State Guard to assist in shelter operation in Southeast and East Texas.
* Deployment of a medical task force of the Texas National Guard, including eight doctors, five nurses, 10 physician assistants and 30 combat medics.
* Deployment of regional liaison team from the Governor's Division of Emergency Management to Baton Rouge to assist officials with the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness.
* Deployment of six UH-60 helicopters and two CH-47 Chinook helicopters for use in disaster relief efforts, along with one C-23 Texas Air National Guard aircraft.
* Deployment of one satellite communications package from the Texas Army National Guard that can provide phone and Internet service, along with six personnel.
* Deployment of one 40-member Incident Command Team from the Texas Forest Service.
* Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife Department has deployed a highly-trained search and rescue team of 53 game wardens with 52 trucks and 50 boats.
* Deployment of 50 commercial ambulances.
* Suspended oversize permitting requirements and waived the oversize permit fee for all temporary housing and emergency equipment headed to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida for disaster relief.
* Full mobilization of the Texas Emergency Management Council, consisting of 34 state agencies and organizations. The council is currently operating at full strength at the State Operations Center (SOC) to organize state resources to assist Louisiana.
* Texas has East/Southeast Texas area shelters available and on stand-by:
o 17 are currently open.
o 38 are on stand by, including 2 Special Needs shelters.
* SOC is working with the Texas Railroad Commission and the Department of Energy and has put the Natural Gas Reliability Council on stand-by in case the need for natural gas curtailment were to occur with the event of a large supply loss.
* All Special Needs capable medical facilities and shelters in East/Southeast Texas have been notified and are on stand-by.
* TXDOT and DPS Districts in East and Southeast Texas are on a heighten level of readiness to assist evacuees.
* SOC is monitoring for any evidence of "price gouging" that may occur during this event.
* SOC is working with the FAA to ensure timely notification of changes with regard to air flow and traffic.
* Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is allowing hurricane evacuees to camp in Texas parks at no charge.

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