9-7-05 - Plans to transfer Hurricane Katrina evacuees from Texas to other states including Oklahoma have been put on hold because many of these people do not want to leave, an Oklahoma official said Wednesday.
States have been notified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency not to expect additional evacuees to be transferred from Texas because many "prefer to remain in the region as they resolve issues concerning the status of property, employment, and the safety of loved ones," said Michelann Ooten, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.
She said, however, some evacuees may be sent directly from New Orleans to other states. An estimated 10,000 people remain in New Orleans.
About 1,500 evacuees have taken up residence at Camp Gruber, a National Guard training center outside of Muskogee, and school officials were passing out enrollment packets Wednesday for about 300 children who will be attending classes in nearby schools.
Another 3,000 evacuees had been expected at the Falls Creek church camp in southern Oklahoma near Davis since Monday and a church in Yukon had planned to house up to 130 evacuees at a bible college.
Some of the volunteers at Falls Creek were sent home Tuesday.
"We have scaled down our operations," Ray Sanders, spokesman for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said. "We have sent many of our volunteers home and have asked to receive a 10- to 12-hour advance notice of the evacuees' arrival."
Texas has 240,000 evacuees in shelters, hotels and the Houston Astrodome.
President Bush has declared Oklahoma as a federal disaster area, which will help the state qualify for federal funds to care for evacuees.
Henry has been sent a request from the Oklahoma National Guard for $4.1 million from the state emergency fund to cover state active duty costs associated with Hurricane Katrina. Henry's spokesman Paul Sund said it was hoped that the federal disaster declaration would help the state in reimbursing these costs.
The state Department of Public Safety was creating a system to provide temporary identification cards to evacuees who show proper identification or have a driver's license or ID card on file with the state of Louisiana.
In other efforts to help with disaster relief:
- Three Oklahoma universities raised a total of $195,300 during Saturday's football games to be used to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. The University of Oklahoma raised $140,000, Oklahoma State raised $44,000 and the University of Tulsa raised $11,300.
- Free or reduced tuition has been offered to help students whose Gulf Coast schools have been closed. Institutions participating in the offer include Oklahoma State University, OSU-Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Christian University, East Central University, Oklahoma Panhandle State University and Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Also, Southwestern Oklahoma State University and Northwestern Oklahoma State University were waiving the out-of-state portion of tuition for nonresidents, while Redlands Community College and OSU-Okmulgee are helping students with tuition on a case-by-case basis.
- A pastor of a church in the small northeast Oklahoma town of Redbird was offering free plots of land to hurricane evacuees who want to build a home and settle in the town. Reggie Walker, pastor of the Vision of Hope Church, said the population of the town has dwindled and it's slowly becoming a ghost town.