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Hurricane Harvey

Seeking Shelter, Harvey Evacuees Stay In State Parks

Roughly 7,500 people have sought shelter after Hurricane Harvey at state parks in Texas.


Susan Arawley (left) speaks with Jamie Creacy, superintendent of the Lost Pines Complex, which includes Bastrop State Park. As Hurricane Harvey hit, Arawley tried picking up supplies and got stuck in rising flood water. After sleeping in her car four nights, she decided to head to Bastrop State Park, where she could take a shower.

Erik Ryan and Mia Reynolds from San Leon, Texas, sit at the picnic table at their campsite in Bastrop State Park. Reynolds, who is currently on hold with FEMA, says that she has been through storms before.

“I did not want to wait around for a politician to tell me to evacuate. I saw the storm on the news and had a bad feeling. That’s when I decided to rent a U-Haul truck and pull out.”

Reynolds pauses as a an electronic voice comes over the phone: “Your wait time is now 154 minutes.”

Erik Ryan and Mia Reynolds from San Leon, Texas, wait on hold with FEMA at their campsite at Bastrop State Park in Texas on Sunday. Running out of money and resources, they were relieved to hear Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement that Texas State Parks were open for the month of September for evacuees, free of charge.

Ryan and Reynolds, who live in their Airstream Trailer, took one and a half days to pack up their homesite and move vehicles to higher ground ahead of the storm. Their first stop was the Houston West RV Park in Brookshire, Texas, west of Katy. After five days of rain and water levels rising, Ryan and Reynolds realized that it was time to go again. Running out of money and resources, they were relieved to hear Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement that Texas State Parks were open for the month of September for evacuees, free of charge.

Erik Ryan and Mia Reynolds evacuated San Leon, Texas, with their two chickens and are currently staying in Bastrop State Park in Texas.

“It has been great to see the overwhelming response from the local community,” says Evans.

Roughly 7,500 people have sought shelter at Texas State Parks since the state parks opened to evacuees on Aug. 24, before Hurricane Harvey made landfall, according to Stephanie Garcia, a representative with Texas Parks & Wildlife.

Sergio Gil Jr. and Susan Arawley’s car is packed up with all of their supplies. The two are from Pearland, Texas. In response to Hurricane Harvey, the Texas State Parks opened their doors to evacuees free of charge through the month September. As of Labor Day, about 7,500 individuals have taken shelter at Texas State Parks.

At Inks Lake State Park volunteers currently provide two meals a day and basic services to the 40 evacuees staying at the park, down from 120 evacuees a week after the storm. A doctor from Scott & White, a chain of hospitals and clinics in the area, answered medical questions and representatives from the local school district informed parents about how to enroll students into the local school system.

As the flood water in the coastal cities recedes, so does the need for shelter at the State Parks. People are returning to their homes and surveying the damage. Evans expects that some of those who have left will return if there is no home to go back to.

Leonard Turner, 81, evacuated before the storm made a direct hit over his town of Rockport, Texas. Turner, a retired Bastrop police officer, left his home with a few days worth of clothes and his favorite John Wayne tapes.

Sergio Gil Jr. paints to pass the time at Bastrop State Park on Sunday.

“I knew that it would be bad, but I still thought a few things would survive. My house was built in 1952. I know that it did not have a chance,” says Turner.

After four days of sleeping in his truck in Bastrop, Texas, he heard that the State Parks were open to evacuees and he made his way to Bastrop State Park. He now knows that his house was totally destroyed by the storm.

“I knew what was going to happen even before it happened. With 135 miles per hour winds, nothing else could happen,” says Turner.

Baylee Jackson (left) and Kyle Proctor, evacuated from Corpus Christi on Aug. 25, as Hurricane Harvey was making landfall on the Texas coast. The couple, who are expecting their first child on Sept. 20, say that the people at Inks Lake State Park have been very helpful. Volunteers have brought baby clothes and have helped the couple find a doctor for Baylee.

Katie Hayes Luke is a freelance photojournalist and multimedia producer based in Austin, Texas.

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