Three years have passed since the City of Frisco partnered with area hotels to offer shelter for victims of Hurricane Harvey. It was a Category 4 storm that caused an estimated $125 billion in damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, killed 68 in Texas, and left 13,000 people in need of rescue. “Many people are now saying that this is the worst storm/hurricane they have ever seen,” Trump wrote in an Aug. 27, 2017 tweet. “Good news is that we have great talent on the ground.”
Now the City of Frisco is once again opening their hearts for more than 2,200 evacuees of Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm that ravaged the Louisiana and the Texas coastline early Thursday, killing six people, as of Aug. 28, and forcing thousands of people from their homes.
“We drove up here with family from Port Arthur,” says Danielle Simien of Port Arthur, Texas. “We left at the very last minute. I wasn't going to go, but my brother called and told me to look at the news. I ended up going outside and [the temperature] was cool. I knew the storm was going to be bad, so we left just a few hours before it hit. We drove back roads to get here, so traffic wasn't bad. My brother lives in Fort Worth, so we wanted to be close to family. It worked out there were hotel rooms available here in Frisco."
To make this possible, Frisco Fire Department, Frisco’s Emergency Management team, which includes Visit Frisco, and joined with area hotel leaders to secure hotel room blocks at several of Frisco’s hotels. “We are fortunate to have great hotel partners willing to step up and offer hotel rates and meals for these families,” Marla Roe, Visit Frisco executive director, said in an Aug. 28 press release. “Much like back in 2017 with Hurricane Harvey, we are thankful our hotels were prepared to welcome these folks to safety.”
Marissa Maguire, general manager of AC Hotel & Residence Inn, said they first became aware of the need Wednesday morning. So they started planning the logistics and coordinating with the Frisco Fire Department. Their goal was for them to be mobilized in the hotel around 6 p.m. They started checking in their first evacuees around 7 p.m. Wednesday.
"It's been very busy the last few days,” Maguire said. “A huge change from what we've been used to in the last few months. It's an exciting change to be at full capacity again."
They’ve been managing two different systems. She said they have the evacuees that they are housing at the AC Hotel & Residence Inn, but they’ve also seen another 1,000 people come in for pre-screening with the Frisco Fire Department. They’ve been helping them coordinate what other local hotels have as far as availability.
"Some of the folks who arrived Wednesday night had been driving since 4 a.m.,” Maguire said. “We have a lot of families, multi-generational families who are all trying to stay together, trying to find a place to stay where they can be close to their loved ones. There's a lot of uncertainty for them. A lot brought their pets because they didn't know if they'd be safe at home and a lot are unclear as to what they'll be going back to. Some of them have friends or family that did stay back so they're getting updates here and there."
Maguire pointed out that their staff has stepped up and is working 14 to 18-hour shifts just to try and accommodate this urgent demand. “I'm thankful for our team, because they see the need and they've talked to some of these individuals, as well," she said. "It's on all our hearts very heavily. If this was us, and this was our family, we would want people to step up and help take care of us."