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San Antonio Prepares For More Evacuees From Aftereffects Of Harvey


Now to San Antonio, a city that isn't seeing the deluge but is seeing an influx of evacuees fleeing areas that were hardest hit by the storm. Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio joins us now on the line. Mayor, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

RON NIRENBERG: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: What's going on in San Antonio? I mean, how many people have you seen come to your city seeking shelter?

NIRENBERG: Well, we've seen two events here. One was preparations for what could have been a much worse situation with regard to local flooding. We know San Antonio has a challenge because we're in Flash Flood Alley, so even small amounts of rain can cause a little bit of havoc locally. We've thankfully avoided that. The second event has been coordination with rescue operations along the coast because we're a state regional emergency operation center and then, of course, working with evacuees as they get to San Antonio.

We've had over a thousand sheltered evacuees at any given time, but we expect that number to increase sharply over the next several hours and in the next couple of days. And then, of course, many, many more people than that that have left on their own volition have sought shelter with friends and family in town or just, you know, gone to a nearby hotel or motel.

MARTIN: One of your predecessors, Mayor Phil Hardberger, got a lot of national attention for opening San Antonio to evacuees during Hurricane Katrina when other cities were closing their doors. How is San Antonio positioned if the numbers of evacuees continues to rise?

NIRENBERG: Well, you know, we are a compassionate city first. You know, we simply ask how we can help. And it seems that - and Phil is a dear friend of mine and a mentor, and he's been a model for the state, if not the nation, in how we handle situations like this. And it seems like our nearby cities have learned a lot from his leadership because I see much more open arms in accepting evacuees.

But our philosophy is we will do whatever it takes. I had meetings last night with our folks about shelter, available space. And, you know, I'm telling folks no one will be turned away. No one will be turned away. We will do whatever is necessary. The capacity we have at shelters is whatever's needed. We're continuing to open up space. We have many thousands of available beds right now. And we will add to that according to the need that's there.

MARTIN: The White House has suggested that President Trump is going to visit the area, is going to fly to Texas. It's unclear exactly where he's going to go, but there is some reporting that suggests San Antonio may be his destination. Does that require special preparations on your part? Are you expecting that to happen?

NIRENBERG: You know, we're - we haven't been given any additional information. I'm actively monitoring Twitter. But, those folks that need to deal with that sort of preparation are, I'm sure, well-equipped to do that.

MARTIN: Lastly, for those who want to support your efforts - in particular, your city's efforts - to help survivors, what would you tell them? Where's the best place to give?

NIRENBERG: That's a well-coordinated effort, as well. We're asking people who have donations of food, new clothing - please no used clothing - toiletries, you know, diapers, baby formula, pet food to donate to our San Antonio Red Cross. I've worked with our council member offices to open up all council field offices for drop-off locations. Then people can volunteer through the Red Cross.

MARTIN: That's how people can help. Texas mayor of San Antonio, Ron Nirenberg. Thanks so much for your time this morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF HAUSCHKA'S "CRACO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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