Some people displaced by Hurricane Harvey find themselves searching for accommodations this week as hotels prepare for thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts to arrive for the Lone Star Rally.
Although area hoteliers are still accommodating people displaced by the late August storm, several said they also are having to juggle already scheduled stays for one of Galveston’s largest yearly events.
Lone Star Rally is a four-day event that takes place Thursday though Sunday and is expected to bring 250,000 motorcycles to the island.
“They booked this way before time and I know I can’t force them to cancel,” said Jay Patel, assistant general manager of Americas Best Value Inn & Suites in Galveston.
Hurricane Harvey on Aug. 25 hit Rockport, about 200 miles south of the county. The storm moved up the Texas coast and dropped more than 50 inches of rain in some areas, inundating some cities with devastating flooding and displacing many people because of damage to homes.
In the immediate aftermath of the storm, people flocked to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s temporary housing program, called Transitional Shelter Assistance. More than 52,000 people from Texas are still staying in hotel rooms paid for by the agency, spokeswoman Deanna Frazier said. Most people are in hotels in Texas, but up to 32 states are participating, Frazier said.
Hotel participation in the shelter assistance program is completely voluntary, and hotels can allocate as few or as many rooms as they would like at any given time, Frazier said. The agency isn’t involved in any changes to reservations, Frazier said.
“There is no process of informing them because that’s not our issue with the room,” Frazier said. “That is totally on the hotel. What we do urge people to do is to go onto that disasterassistance.gov and look at the different hotels that are available.”
Texas City resident Rhonda Gould said the agency extended her eligibility to Nov. 7 to use the program, but Candlewood Suites in Texas City couldn’t confirm that Gould had an extended stay, she said. The hotel also told her that she would have to leave before her stay expired because of the Lone Star Rally, Gould said.
“My hotel was good to me, they were very nice,” Gould said. “But I don’t think this is an isolated story.”
Candlewood Suites did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Gould eventually was told she could stay because a room opened up, she said. Still, she was annoyed about the issue when it occurred, Gould said.
“To me, if you’re a hotel and you agree to be part of a FEMA program, you have to let those guests stay as long as they’re allowed,” Gould said. “You shouldn’t take any more people in than you can accommodate based on the amount of reservations that you have.”
Several hotel managers on the mainland and the island said that they were working to free up space for people needing temporary shelter by asking Lone Star Rally attendees whether they could cancel their reservations.
James Marx, the general manager of the Quality Inn in Galveston, said he left a number of rooms available for displaced people and didn’t book any more for Lone Star Rally than he knew he could handle.
“We know from past history that they aren’t going to be out in six weeks,” Marx said. “These people are kept on the edge.”
Jacob Corbitt said the Holiday Express Inn in Texas City where he and his family are staying told him they’d have to leave by Nov. 2 to make way for Lone Star Rally guests, but that they could return after the rally. Corbitt’s Texas City house sustained Harvey damage.
“I understand, but it’s just scary when you have a family and they say you’ve got to go,” Corbitt said. “I guess it’s a give-give situation.”