Tyler shelters filling fast; Salvation Army mobile canteens staging here

More than 3,000 people from the Beaumont, Port-Arthur area arrived in Tyler overnight, fleeing the path of Hurricane Gustav.

Thousands more came in today. In all, 21 shelters were set up around east Texas in cities like Rusk, Jacksonville, Whitehouse, and Tyler. Around 8:30 pm Sunday night, we learned those shelters were full, but there are other independent shelters open. Buses are now being diverted to those shelters.

KLTV 7's Layron Livingston was out at the Salvation Army parking lot in Tyler Sunday night, where mobile canteens have already started coming from all over the state.

The Salvation Army expects about 20 of these mobile canteens from as far out as McAllen, Texas to as close as Longview. And that's just a taste of what's going behind the scenes with volunteers.

They can stand the heat - that's why the Southern Baptists' of Texas Convention disaster relief team is in the kitchen.

"We want to share the love of Jesus with people that have come here....that have experienced extreme devastation."

Tim McKeown says he and about 30 volunteers have already prepared meals for more than 5,000 people.

They set up camp Saturday and will keep the food coming for evacuees in Red Cross shelters all over east Texas.

"We've already spent 12 million dollars just getting prepared for this."

Pat Shannon with the American Red Cross says it's been a huge undertaking.

"National sent us...three tractor trailer trucks full of supplies that we needed, and I think I heard that there were 99 tractor trailers sent out to this area."

His office has been going non-stop, overseeing their operations.

"We had a guy last night working 36 hours straight, making sure the beds were there, the food was there."

Shannon says volunteers are key, and over at Glenwood Church of Christ, they're getting the word out. The church began registering shelter volunteers earlier this afternoon, adding their names to a database.

"These people are in dire need of help. They're running from a storm and need a place to go and need help, and we can offer that help."

Something Debbie Waffer with the Salvation Army is all to familiar with.

"We are making plans to feed up to 6,000 people. We are here for the longrun."

Tyler is the staging area for these mobile canteens.

We're told that from the Salvation Army, units will receive their orders and be deployed to the hardest hit areas once the storm passes.

Also, 5 Trucks carrying 106,000 ready to eat meals will be delivered to an undisclosed staging area. And, Wal-Mart has also sent trucks.

Volunteers and donations are crucial to the success at our local shelters.

If you'd like to sign up to help, you can do so at the Glenwood Church of Christ tomorrow morning from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, or beginning Tuesday, from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.

Layron Livingston, reporting. llivingston@kltv.com