Bishop Don Wimberly has relocated the Diocese of Texas offices to Camp Allen, the camp and conference center of the diocese, while many of the congregations along the Gulf Coast evacuate in front of Hurricane Rita.
"We have a number of offers for places to stay," said Wimberly, "but have not had any requests yet."
Marjorie George, communications director in the neighboring Diocese of West Texas, said they had 15 homes of parishioners and their camp sites ready. St. Christopher's, Killeen, has also offered places to stay.
"We continue to have people coming off the highway here, they find it like an oasis in the desert," Wimberly said. One family showed up on Friday morning after spending the night in a field next to a gridlocked freeway full of evacuees trying to leave Houston. The family of four had not eaten since Thursday at noon and Camp Allen president George Dehan told them to have breakfast first and then they would get them situated in a room. The relief on their faces spoke volumes, Dehan said.
Forty-seven residents from the diocesan retirement community, St. James' House in Baytown, arrived at the camp after being on busses for more than 18 hours. One bus broke down and residents, many on oxygen or in wheel chairs, had to be moved to other transportation sent by Good Shepherd, Tomball and Camp Allen to complete the trip which should normally take no more than two hours. Eighteen staff members and several volunteers traveled with residents to help care for them at Camp Allen.
Dehan said residents from Swan nursing home in Baytown are also being housed at the conference center.
"The lack of resources, gasoline and water, for those stuck on the freeway is contributing to a tense situation," Dehan said. The large chapel will be used as contingency space for any emergency needs should people be forced off the highway and need a place to stay during the storm, he added. Rita is expected to hit early Saturday morning around 1 a.m. and is expected to carry 90 mile an hour winds even this far in from the coast.
"With the shift in direction of Rita, we are now trying to reach the clergy who are now in harm's way," Wimberly said. He has been on the telephone since early this morning as the skies continue to remain blue and the Episcopal flag flutters outside the temporary offices in a slight breeze.
Further bulletins from the Diocese of Texas will be located on the website of the Diocese of Washington at http://epicenter.edow.org