Hundreds flood into Oklahoma as Gustav hits

Monday, September 1st 2008, 3:27 pm
By: News 9

By Kirsten McIntyre, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Thirty-five buses filled with evacuees arrived in Oklahoma City around 1 a.m. Monday.

The Gulf Coast residents are being housed at the old Lucent Technology Center.

State and local officials were told to prepare for 400 people, but at the last minute, several buses were diverted to Oklahoma City. Officials said they're expecting a total of 1,800 evacuees.

Many of them spent Monday walking up and down Reno Avenue, doing what they can to pass time as they ride out the storm.

Bobby Cook and his mother, Monica Perry, were among several family members staying together at the Oklahoma City shelter.

"We weren't even supposed to be up this far," Perry said. "We were told we were goin got Shreveport, but hey, I'm cool with it."

Perry said she can't seem to forget the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"The winds, the rain and the news of the Hurricane really, really scared us," Perry said.

Many evacuees shared the same concerns as Perry.

"We're twenty miles from the Gulf. We had to leave, but otherwise...I would have stayed home," La. resident Kevin Moore said. "That New Orleans experience, we didn't want to have to go through that."

With the old Lucent Technology Plant serving as a temporary home to 1,800 people, the atmostphere reflects a small community.

"It's an emergency shelter and although we don't have all the amenities that The Ritz Carlton does, we are providing all the basic needs," said Oklahoma City Police Sgt. Paco Balderrama.

The shelter provides health care, counseling and pet care to the evacuees and their family members.

"I think the breakdown is like 20 dogs, 10 cats," said Okla. Department of Agriculture spokesman Jack Carson. "We have a service dog, a hamster, a cockatiel and some fish."

Several state agencies, organizations and volunteers are working together to operate the shelter. For many of those staying here, they said they appreciate the hospitality.

All the evacuees were required to register when they got off the bus. They were also checked for outstanding warrants.

Three people were actually taken to jail for outstanding warrants, and three others were arrested for fighting. Police say they don't want criminals living among families.