“I’m tired of running from hurricanes,” storm evacuee Daphne Griffin says. Griffin and her family linger this Monday afternoon outside the Walnut Hill Recreation Center on Midway Road in Dallas. She's seeking shelter from Hurricane Harvey while experiencing flashbacks of her run-ins with Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Ike.
Like many of the 300 other families seeking shelter at the rec center, Griffin and her family have been here since Friday night. Most of them left the Houston and Galveston after the National Weather Service upgraded the severity of the hurricane, eventually to a Category 4. Fifty counties in southern Texas have been impacted by the storm, and more than 30,000 people are expected to seek temporary shelter.
Griffin escaped the rising floodwaters with 11 other family members, who loaded into two pickup trucks. She says they didn't have much money because she wasn't able to access her credit union before they left town. Instead, they simply threw their clothes in the back of the pickups and loaded up in hopes that they would be able to wash and dry their clothes when they arrived at the shelter in Dallas, but a washer and dryer weren't available.
They’re not sure when they’ll be able to return home, and the cramped conditions at the rec center, coupled with the 10 p.m. lights-out rule is wearing on their nerves.
“I’m thinking about sleeping out in my truck,” Griffin says.
Griffin says many families seeking shelter at the rec center are frustrated about how American Red Cross volunteers are handling donations and treating some evacuees. She says the lights-out rule is also making it hard on mothers with babies because they can't see where they are going when they need to change diapers.
"If you could go inside and ask some of them, you would see," she says.
The Community Emergency Response Team wouldn't let reporters into the shelter, and the American Red Cross representative never appeared to answer questions.
The American Red Cross opened the shelter at the Walnut Hill Recreation Center on Friday morning. Mark Hebert, with the local Community Emergency Response Team, says the shelter didn’t take long to fill. Many of the families left Hurricane Harvey’s path before it made landfall Friday night.
It also didn’t take long to fill the recreation center with donated goods. Dallas residents were continuously arriving to donate goods Monday morning, but Hebert was forced to turn away many of the donations because the shelter needed only clothes for youth and women at the time.
“This has been nonstop,” he says. “The list [of what is needed] changes by the hour.”
Hebert and other volunteers encouraged people to take their donations to Trusted World, a nonprofit organization that works with disaster areas in the U.S., at 15660 N. Dallas Parkway. It’s acting as a distribution center for other evacuation centers in Dallas.
Some of the families seeking shelter from the storm lingered at park benches and near the basketball court in front of the Walnut Hill Recreation Center.
Mikey Jackson was shooting a few hoops with other refugees from the Houston area. Like Griffin, he compared staying at the shelter to staying in prison. He says evacuees get only one bar of soap per family and that the shower situation also isn’t great.
Others at the shelter told the Observer about such conditions, but most quickly pointed out that their situations could be much worse. Many of their family members and friends who chose to remain are stuck in their homes without food or electricity.
Gerardo Torres took his family and fled the southeast Texas coast when he saw pictures of Hurricane Harvey on the local weather station. He started packing Thursday night and headed toward Dallas on Friday morning when he heard that the storm would drop about six months' worth of rain on the area over the weekend.
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He says he’d originally planned to take his family to San Antonio to have a little fun, but he found that it would be raining there, too, and changed his mind. “One thing we always ask for the Lord to give is wisdom,” he says.
They arrived Saturday morning and said they were “treated like kings” since their arrival at the recreation center off Midway Road. They’re thankful for the donated food and clothing and the roof over their heads because they have family members and friends who stayed behind and now face the worst flooding conditions ever to hit southeast Texas.
“If you want to take care of your family, you just have to run [from the storm] because it is no fun to stay behind,” he says.