Emergency barge shelter cancelled; authorities seek alternatives

Published 10:53 am Thursday, September 14, 2017

By Jesse Wright



Early Thursday county officials got word that the berthing barges that were supposed to be coming the same day to Port Arthur for temporary shelter will not be arriving.

“I was told by FEMA representatives that the barges did not pass Coast Guard inspection and they won’t be coming,” said County Judge Jeff Branick. “They’re working on alternative arrangements. … It’s possible they will use Ford Park for temporary housing.”

The news comes at a critical time as at least hundreds of apartment residents were given five-day notices to get out of their homes due to flood damage. In addition, Port Arthur Independent School District had hoped to empty Thomas Jefferson Middle School’s population of evacuees prior to the first day of school.

On Thursday, PAISD Superintendent Mark Porterie said he did not know where the 250 evacuees who are at the shelter will go. But, he said, he expects to open school campuses as normal on Monday.

In the meantime, FEMA has set up shop at Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Port Arthur.

The move seems to have surprised Red Cross officials, too.

“We were made aware today (Thursday) about the cancellation of the barges, as well. I’m still awaiting an update on the development of an alternative temporary housing plan,” Jack Wilson, a Red Cross spokesperson wrote in an email.

As of deadline Thursday, no new location had been secured for sure. However, according to Ekland Durousseau, the Red Cross’ regional public affairs manager, the charity group is aware of evacuees “in the low hundreds,” meaning the majority of them are at Thomas Jefferson.

Anyone needing FEMA assistance may get information there from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 am. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.

The church is located at 501 W. Thomas Boulevard.

FEMA intake services can help with FEMA applications, matching family needs with services and help for disaster loss as well as other issues.