OKLAHOMA CITY - Hundreds of evacuees from Louisiana who fled Hurricane Gustav have arrived at an Oklahoma City shelter.
Michelann Ooten, spokeswoman for the Office of Emergency Preparedness, said Monday about 1,800 evacuees have taken up temporary residence at the Lucent Technology Center. They arrived shortly before midnight Sunday.
Telephones and computers are available to them. Cots have been set up on the sprawling floor of the center and there is a separate area for meals.
Some of the evacuees brought pets. Workers from the state Agriculture Department are helping care for 27 animals, including dogs, cats, two hamsters and a fish.
Gov. Brad Henry declared a state of emergency Saturday as the state prepared to receive the first of what may be thousands of Gulf Coast evacuees who are fleeing Hurricane Gustav.
The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management said about 150 patients from southwest Louisiana hospitals are expected to arrive at the Oklahoma Air National Guard Base at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City by Monday.
Fifteen patients arrived around 10:00 p.m. Sunday and the volunteers were on hand to assist.
"It's obviously very confusing to the patient," Col. Greg Ferguson said. "They need to know they're in good hands and what we bring with them is the opportunity to bring them a friendly face, someone who's going to take their hand and care for them."
The patients are being evacuated by air transport through the National Disaster Medical System. Once in Oklahoma City, they'll be transported by ambulance to area hospitals where they may be forced to remain for days.
Five Oklahoma medical specialists were called to Dallas and are ready to help when needed.
"They take their skill into the air so the aircraft they use is basically a flying ambulance," Ferguson said.
The Red Cross has also been dispatched to Dallas to be on call.
"If I can make one person smile when they're having the worse day of their life, that'll be the best thing in the world for me," Red Cross volunteer Taylor Kelling said.
The Cox Center has been considered for a potential shelter for evacuees.
"Whether it's an ice storm here or tornado in Oklahoma or flood, people always come from different states around the nation," said Oklahoma Department of Emergency spokeswoman Michelann Ooten.
Three years ago, about 1,500 evacuees were housed for up to a month at Camp Gruber in northeastern Oklahoma after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast.