Family flees storm, finds space at Austin shelter

Amber Aldaco By Amber Aldaco

Aug. 25, 2017 at 7:24 p.m.

Tito Rodriguez, of Edna, registers with the American Red Cross at the Delco Activity Center in Austin. About 65 people from the Coastal Bend area were registered at the shelter Friday afternoon.

Tito Rodriguez, of Edna, registers with the American Red Cross at the Delco Activity Center in Austin. About 65 people from the Coastal Bend area were registered at the shelter Friday afternoon.    Amber Aldaco for The Victoria Advocate

AUSTIN - Sandra Kelley woke up Friday morning in her Edna home and packed items one would for a trip. Backpacks full of clothes, crackers and bottled water for her family of eight were loaded into her crowded red 2017 Dodge Journey around 10:30 a.m. Her grandchildren ate breakfast tacos as they drove from Edna, which was nearly a ghost town after many residents left after a mandatory evacuation was issued Thursday in anticipation of Hurricane Harvey.

The breakfast tacos might be the last meal Kelley cooked in her home.

"It just got really bad really fast," Kelley, 56, said.

Kelley is one of about 65 Coastal Bend evacuees who traveled to Central Texas to take refuge from what is forecasted to be a historic hurricane to hit the Texas coast. She and her four children and four grandchildren traveled to a Red Cross shelter that was set up in the Delco Activity Center in Austin. They were initially going to travel to a shelter in Waco, she said, but was told that it was full.

The Delco Activity Center is the only shelter set up for Hurricane Harvey evacuees in Austin, said Bristel Minsker, American Red Cross communications director for the Central and South Texas Region. The center opened up Friday morning in anticipation that more evacuees would travel to the Austin/San Antonio area. There, registered evacuees have been provided with food and medication, if needed. Austin EMTs and Austin Police Department officers were also on site at the shelter. The maximum number of people for the shelter would be 350, said a Red Cross volunteer.

A lifelong resident of Edna, Kelley said she never imagined she would have to leave her home behind. But when the storm quickly intensified, she and her children decided leaving was the best decision.

"I saw how bad it was going to be for Edna and Victoria. The forecast showed how all the rain and wind was going to impact the area," Kelley said. "We couldn't be there for that."

Kelley's brother, Tito Rodriguez, also of Edna, evacuated Friday morning as well. They caravanned from Edna and arrived in Austin at the same time.

"We wanted to make sure that we would all be together," Kelley said.

Rodriguez, 60, left behind his trailer home and was unsure whether it will still be there when he returns to Edna. Rodriguez said he vaguely remembers when Hurricane Carla - a Category 5 hurricane - hit near Port O'Connor in 1961. He was 5 years old at the time, and remembers the wind and being scared, Rodriguez said.

But he didn't want to be in Edna to remember Harvey.

"There were still people who decided to stay," Rodriguez said, shifting his weight on his feet. "I don't know what is going to happen to them."

Both Kelley and Rodriguez said they are relieved to be away from Hurricane Harvey, but are uncertain of what the near future holds for them and their community.

"I'm afraid that when I go home - whenever that is - that I won't have a house to go home to. And I don't know if we're even going to have a town to go home to anymore," Kelley said. "Edna might really turn into a ghost town. That scares me."

Kelley said she knows several people who stayed in Edna and she was worried about them because Hurricane Harvey was predicted to be a strong storm.

"I've been calling my friend who stayed behind, but so far it just keeps ringing," Kelley said, her cellphone to her ear. "Hopefully she'll answer soon."


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