Hurricane season 2007: Experts advise residents to gather supplies to last four days
Polk County Enterprise, May 2007
By VALERIE REDDELL
LIVINGSTON — Hurricane season begins tomorrow and Polk County Emergency Management Coordinator Kenneth Hambrick is urging area residents to remember the after-effects the county endured after Hurricane Rita and prepare for this year's storm season.
"The main thing we learned with Rita is that people need to be prepared to support themselves for three to four days until help can arrive," Hambrick said. "It takes a while to get set-up and get food and water out to everybody."
Even once assistance arrives from FEMA and National Guard units, it takes a while to get supplies to all the outlying areas — several of which were trapped by trees that fell across roads during the tremendous winds, according to Hambrick.
"We had so much trouble getting baby food and diapers," Hambrick said. "I was surprised at how many people ran out of those crucial supplies after a day."
Another crucial area is an adequate supply of water for drinking and cleaning needs.
The long-running power outage prevented many area water companies from supplying their customers, but Hambrick said many of those companies now have backup generators in place.
Even though local crews from SHECO and the City of Livingston were able to repair damage to power lines fairly quickly, other damage between Polk County and the generation stations prevented power from reaching our city, Hambrick said.
Forecasters predict a busy hurricane season with 13 to 17 tropical storms and seven to 10 of them becoming hurricanes. Those experts predict three to five of those storms will be Category 3 or higher.
But even if Polk County is spared tropical storm strength winds and rain, the lessons of 2005 show that the threat of a strike on the Houston-Galveston area will have a major impact on East Texas.
Hambrick said at a recent conference for emergency managers, officials discussed methods to plan a smoother evacuation of the millions of people who live in that area.
"Highways 59 and 146 will still be the evacuation route for Galveston and the Beaumont area," Hambrick said.
The primary routes for residents of those areas is up Texas 146 or Texas 105 to U.S. 59 and proceed north the Nacogdoches.
Residents of the eastern sections of the Golden Triangle area are supposed to proceed due north on Highways 92, 96 or 87 to Longview, Marshall or points further north.
Major gasoline retailers have joined in planning for a safer evacuation after the events of 2005, Hambrick said.
"The head of Valero is the state coordinator for petroleum products during evacuation," Hambrick said.
Several companies have said they will provide the necessary equipment and supplies to keep their stations staffed and open on evacuation routes so people can refuel and keep moving, according to Hambrick.
The El Niño effect that protected the Texas Gulf Coast from a hurricane strike in 2006 is gone now, said meteorologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
During El Niño years, the Pacific Ocean warms and alters wind patterns that guide weather movement.
The first named storm of the year, Andrea, came well before the official beginning of hurricane season.
Hurricane experts at Colorado State University say the Texas Gulf Coast is twice as likely to be hit as in an average year, and Florida is four times as likely.
Rita ranks in ninth place in damage caused by hurricanes, causing $12 billion in damage.
Katrina took the lives of 1,500 Gulf Coast residents and iis the third-deadliest in U.S. history, behind the 1900 hurricane that struck Galveston and killed 8,000 to 12,000 people and a 1928 unnamed storm that took 2,500 lives in Florida.