State by state estimates of evacuee housing
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
September 8, 2005
Almost 240,000 hurricane victims are in Texas; 25,000 in Alabama; 60,000 in Arkansas; 15,000 in Tennessee; 15,000 in Georgia. More than 485 Red Cross shelters have been opened in 18 states including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia with more on standby. More than 142,000 evacuees are being sheltered by the American Red Cross. Meanwhile a debate has emerged on whether to call displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina “refugees,” “evacuees,” “victims” or “survivors.”
The National Association of Black Journalists has provided guidance to news organizations about the language used to describe victims of the disaster. Instead of using the term “refugees” which carries certain connotations, the association has asked editors to instead choose terms such as “evacuees,” “victims” or “survivors.”
“Words have power, especially in a time of crisis,” said Bryan Monroe, NABJ president and assistant vice president/news at Knight Ridder. “We encourage editors to avoid loaded words and choose language most accurate for the situation.”
Evacuee estimates for cities and states
Below are estimates of the number of hurricane victims housed in various states and cities.
In Texas, about 250,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees are sheltered in cities including Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Killeen, Beaumont, and Tyler. 139,000 hurricane refugees were in 137 shelters in Texas, and another 100,000 were estimated to be in hotels and motels, said Robert Black, spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry.
In San Antonio, the former Kelly Air Force Base began accepting people on buses that were turned away from the Astrodome. Up to 7,000 people could be accommodated in an air-conditioned office building and warehouse.
In Houston, the Astrodome has 17,500 evacuees, Reliant Center has 3,800, Reliant Arena houses 2,300 residents and the George R. Brown Convention Center holds 1,300 people.
In Alabama, Jeff Emerson, a spokesman for governor Bob Riley, said an estimated 25,000 displaced people were in the state Tuesday with more expected in days to come. Alba Rivera, an American Red Cross spokeswoman, said her group was housing 5,380 evacuees in 49 Alabama shelters. Brian James, spokesman for the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel, said 10,000 of the state’s 59,000 motel rooms were occupied by emergency workers and evacuees.
In California, Governor Schwarzenegger said the state would accommodate at least 1,000 evacuees. San Diego will take 600; San Francisco, 300; and San Jose, 100, he said. Los Angeles County plans to accommodate 2,000 evacuees.
In New York, Long Island will host up to 300 evacuees.
In Arkansas about 60,000 are scattered at shelters across the state, although another 10,000 to 30,000 expected.
About 1,530 people were staying in hurricane shelters across Tennessee as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the governor’s office said. Around 15,000 evacuees total are now in Tennessee.
In Georgia, the American Red Cross has reported assisting 14,000 affected families in the state of which 1,500 storm victims are staying in 17 Red Cross shelters across the state. Georgia health officials say they’re preparing for as many as 25,000 more survivors from Hurricane Katrina to come to the Atlanta metropolitan area.
South Carolina is prepared to take in as many as 18,000 people.
North Carolina is ready to take about 1,900 evacuees. More than 1,100 are already in the state.
These lists of shelters have been compiled from various press and government reports.
FEMA has chartered three Carnival Cruise Lines cruise ships and one from Scotia Prince Lines for a period of six months to house refugees from Hurricane Katrina. Two ships, with a capacity of about 2,600 passengers each, will be based in Galveston, Texas, and started boarding occupants yesterday. A third ship is scheduled to arrive in Mobile, Ala. on Thursday, Sept. 8, to begin lodging about 1,800 displaced persons. Details about a fourth ship that will hold 1,000 occupants will be provided soon. Currently, it is preparing to move from Charleston, S.C., to head for the Gulf Coast. Evacuees are chosen by state and local authorities with priority given to the elderly and other people with special needs. No one should self-report to any ships, but work with local emergency officials if shelter is needed.
Michael D. Brown, head of FEMA, said the housing mission is being aided from a wide variety of sources across the nation including state parks, military bases, available housing stock and private homes. “The response has been overwhelming and we’re working to place people in safe shelter as quickly as possible,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has established a toll-free number (866-641-8102) for the public to get information on housing needs.
Links to news on shelters in other cities and states
Despite escaping Hurricane Katrina with little physical damage, the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans has suffered significant loss of animal life. According to the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA), the aquarium has lost most of its fish. A skeleton staff is preparing to move some animals out of the facility and caring for surviving animals in the collection. The sea otters, penguins, leafy and weedy seadragons, birds (macaws and raptors), and the white alligator are fine.
Late last month an atmospheric scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology released a study in Nature that found hurricanes have grown significantly more powerful and destructive over the past three decades. Kerry Emanuel, the author of the study, warns that since hurricanes depend on warm water to form and build, global climate change might increase the effect of hurricanes still further in coming years.
The loss of coastal marshlands that buffer New Orleans from flooding and storm surges may have worsened the impact of Hurricane Katrina. In the past, the region’s wetlands have served as a natural buffer that slows hurricanes down as they come in from the Gulf of Mexico and helps protect New Orleans from storms. But all this has changed.