Waco hotel rooms were at near capacity Friday as coastal Texans fled a Category 4 hurricane expected to make landfall overnight.
By late afternoon, only about 50 of Greater Waco’s 4,000 rooms were available, and they were going fast, said Carla Pendergraft, marketing director for Waco and the Heart of Texas.
“At this point we’re not going to say every hotel room is gone, but if anyone asks for one it’s really hard to get one,” Pendergraft said. “We expect to sell out for Saturday too, because most people will be staying at least two nights.”
Several coastal communities were under mandatory evacuation orders Friday, including Freeport, Aransas Pass and parts of Brazoria, Calhoun and Matagorda counties, where 120-mph winds and severe flooding are expected from Hurricane Harvey.
Pendergraft said she is in contact with the Waco-McLennan Office of Emergency Management about possibly opening emergency shelters once hotels are sold out. State officials had not requested any shelter locations in Waco as of Friday afternoon.
Cory Burns, corporate sales manager at Holiday Inn Northwest in Bellmead, said he was expecting a sellout night Friday because of evacuees.
“Most of them are coming from the Houston Metroplex,” Burns said. “It’s probably going to be that way for the next couple of days.”
Pendergraft spent time Friday at the tourism office near the Texas Ranger Museum and talked to several evacuees.
“We’ve greeted them and given the evacuees free water,” she said. “I talked to one family that came in looking bedraggled from their trip. They had come up from Victoria and said it took hours to get out of where they were.”
Pendergraft said Waco already had a shortage of hotel rooms, and about 600 rooms were booked this weekend for a regional wood-turning convention at the Waco Convention Center.
Meanwhile, local event planners are keeping an eye on forecasts for possible storms in Waco this weekend.
A 9 a.m. Saturday parade for Lake Air Little League’s world champion softball team was scheduled to continue along Austin Avenue in downtown.
The Margarita & Salsa Festival set for Saturday evening will also continue but will be moved inside the Extraco Event Center.
The National Weather Center forecast late Friday called for an 80 percent chance of rain Saturday, with possible showers in the morning and thunderstorms most likely after 2 p.m.