By: Juanita P. Casanova, American Red Cross

When hundreds of Port Arthur evacuees returned to their hometown sooner than they had expected following a mandatory evacuation on Tuesday, August 25, 2020, they did so with mixed emotions.  Despite the uncertainty of what they might find after Hurricane Laura made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane along the Texas-Louisiana border, most evacuees got off the bus with a smile and a sigh of relief to finally be back.

As they returned, evacuees were taken through the civic center, where Red Cross volunteers were there to welcome them home and provide food, water and snacks for each person that arrived back following the evacuation. 

One evacuee was overheard saying to a Red Cross volunteer when asked how she was doing, “Honey, I stayed at the Westin for 3 nights; I got some rest, and now I am ready to go to work.”

Preparing a positive homecoming for returning evacuees took a team effort from various agencies and organizations.  In addition to the Red Cross, medical personnel assessed evacuees before departing to check their homes, and the Texas Army National Guard also assisted by carrying luggage and helping the wheelchair bound.

Two weeks after landfall, over 7,000 people are still seeking emergency shelter in state and Red Cross supported hotels and shelters across Texas because they can’t return home. More than 790 virtual and in-person Red Cross volunteers have served more than 47,000 meals and snacks with partners, distributed more than 25,800 emergency relief items, and made more than 4,800 individual care contacts. People are depending on the Red Cross now. Help people affected by Hurricane Laura by visiting redcross.org, calling 800-RED-CROSS or texting the word LAURA to 90999 to make a $10 donation.