AUSTIN (KXAN) — Hours on hold, followed by dropped calls, and endless anxiety.
Hurricane Laura evacuees being sheltered in hotel rooms in Texas were told to re-register with the state if they still needed a place to stay. Many in Austin say they remained on hold for hours on Wednesday, with no success, after being told a day earlier they would have to leave.
“The phone just ring, ring, ring, and all of a sudden it just hangs up on us,” said Dianne Harris, who had been staying at the Holiday Inn Express near the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport until Wednesday morning.
The Texas Dept. of Emergency Management, in partnership with the Red Cross, provided hotel rooms for thousands of hurricane evacuees from Texas and Louisiana. As of Tuesday night, a Red Cross spokesperson estimated around 7,000 evacuees remained in hotels throughout the state.
TDEM is working to consolidate evacuees in 40 hotels down to eight hotels, leaving only two in Austin.
Harris said a piece of paper was slipped under the family’s hotel room door at 5 a.m. on Tuesday with instructions on how to re-register for a hotel room with the state. They ultimately pooled the last of their money to secure a hotel room Wednesday night after a series of dropped calls with the TDEM call center.
With their home in Lake Charles severely damaged, and no income coming in, Harris said the family doesn’t have money left over for food or other supplies.
“It’s frustrating,” she said.
Jay Bonafede, public affairs manager for the Red Cross, said some issues with the TDEM call center have caused delays for some evacuees trying to re-register for hotel rooms. He said the state does not anticipate running out of hotel rooms for the evacuees who qualify.
Some hurricane evacuees told KXAN that they will likely spend the night in their cars.
A spokesperson for TDEM said the agency began informing evacuees of the transition on Monday. The agency received 4,000 calls on Tuesday and roughly 21,000 calls on Wednesday. The current wait time, according to TDEM, is a little over an hour.
Evacuees seeking assistance should call (888) 991-5229