Lawton_Hurricane Ike has hit the Texas Gulf Coast. The massive storm made landfall near Galveston, and officials estimate that 1.2 million people already have evacuated their homes ahead of the hurricane. With hotels in Texas filled to the brim, many of the evacuees could wind up in Oklahoma.
Hotels in Lawton tell 7News that they have received several calls and reservations from people fleeing from Ike. At least one Lawton hotel says a handfull of evacuees have arrived. If people left Southeast Texas on Friday, more may arrive late in the evening, even into early Saturday morning. Hotels in Dallas are full, Wichita Falls is near capacity - the next stop for many will be Lawton.
Hurricane Katrina taught us all a lot of lessons, including hotels which are anticipating a busy weekend. The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) put several Lawton hotels on notice earlier this week. Officials asked if the hotels could help, and some didn't hesitate. However, with military graduations and a high school reunion coming, available rooms were few on Friday. "We are looking to open rooms. and once we do have open rooms we will fill up pretty fast," said Hotel Manager Tina Long.
Hotel Manager Adriane Meeus says that they must wait for turnover before checking in any evacuees. "We, of course, don't want to kick out any guests who are here, because they are here for graduations, or weddings, or whatever they came for," she said. "But we are trying to assist the evacuees as much as we can."
Their assistance to the evacuees begins on the phone. Staff must try and determine if there are rooms available, when evacuees might arrive, and how many are coming. They also must keep track of cancellations. "We let FEMA know the moment we get cancellations, and they refer a couple of people," said Meeus. Hotels often add rollaway beds for displaced families who wish to stay together in one room. "We got a couple from Gustav, they got here and then immediately just turned around and went home when they realized that it wasn't nearly as bad as they thought it would be," said Meeus. "We're kind of hoping the same for these people."
The hotels have an important note to evacuees. Please be sure to identify yourself as an evacuee and show proof you are from an affected area. 7News will be following the situation throughout the weekend. An evacuee shelter is on standby in Oklahoma City, and those who need information about storm related assistance should dial 211.