Tyler's staging area in action tonight at evacuees arrive

Tonight, thousands of evacuees are arriving in east Texas, all fleeing hurricane Gustav. As many as 6,000 special needs evacuees are arriving in Tyler tonight from Beaumont. KLTV 7's Courtney Lane was at the staging area as the first buses arrived and brings us the latest.

The first bus pulled in just a few hours ago.  At Faulkner Park, special needs evacuees are screened and designated to shelters across Tyler. They also receive medical screenings, and the Salvation Army is handing out food and water.

"Gave me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Grape, my favorite. Water, cold water. Everything was fine, everything went smoothly," said evacuee Bob Frazier, from Beaumont.

The devastation of Hurricane Rita is still fresh in the minds of these Beaumont residents, not wanting to take any chances this time around.

"Everyone's apprehensive. Worried about where it's going to hit and who it's going to hurt and we don't want to be hurt anymore. Cause my house sustained $20,000 damage last time and I got nothing," said Frazier.

Traffic is getting backed up on the interstate as thousands of self evacuees make their way to east Texas. Fortunately, these men say they left early enough to beat the rush.

"Some little town it was congested. But after we got through it, oh Lumberton, that was it. Other than that clear sailing," said a man who didn't want to be named.

"I stay at the YMCA on Correll so they tell us to go on to Tyler," said Stanley Bell, who's from Beaumont.

In a press conference earlier today, mayor Barbara Bass signed a declaration of disaster, meaning the city can now request reimbursement funding.

City leaders reassured that Tyler is prepared to feed and shelter these evacuees.

"The incident that we had 3 years ago, we did not anticipate we would have the volume of evacuees that we did. And so we have a lot of really good on-the job experience. There's been some great plans put together," said Mark McDaniel, the city manager.

"The only thing we ask right now is for citizens of Tyler to pray for our fellow Texans coming up from the coast," said Fire Chief David Schlottach of the Tyler Fire Department.

Most buses were delayed Saturday night because of bad traffic, so thousands are still arriving.

It's going to be a late night, but they're thankful to be here - safe from the reach of Gustav.

Meals On Wheels is also serving up more than 1,000 meals to evacuees in shelters across east Texas. Another press conference is scheduled with city leaders in the morning.

We will be bringing you the latest as more evacuees arrive in our area.

Courtney Lane, reporting. clane@kltv.com