Hurricane season is one month in progress and runs through the end of November. Recent catastrophic flooding in parts of the Houston area well demonstrates the need for citizens to be prepared and ready should a hurricane affect northern Brazoria County. County officials have produced an official guide to help citizens in that process.
Hurricane Ike was seven years ago this September. Most residents who were residing here then surely remember the storms intensity. Ike was of abnormally large size and at one point in its development had a diameter of over 600 miles. The storm left in its wake significant flooding and extensive damage to infrastructure and agriculture along the entire Gulf Coast of the United States from Florida to Texas. Ike proved to be the third costliest Atlantic hurricane and resulted in an estimated $29.5 billion in damages and 112 deaths. Damage from the storm is surpassed only by Hurricane Katrina, which inundated New Orleans in 2005, and Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the New Jersey shore in 2012.
In making available the Preparedness Guide, Brazoria County Emergency Managers explain that “preparedness is the key to protecting your family and property.” Making plans in advance will “ensure you and your family will survive any hurricane that may threaten our area. Knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take will prepare you to handle most any emergency situation.”
The guide stresses the importance of residents with special health care or transportation needs to register with the State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry (S.T.E.A.R). Those with a disability or who may be medically fragile and who do not have friends or family to help in an evacuation should register in advance of a storm in the Gulf so that authorities will have a record of the individual requiring assistance. Registration is available by dialing 2-1-1 or on line at https://STEAR.dps.texas.gov.
If a resident requires public transportation for a ride out of town in case of an evacuation, they are requested to meet at one of two county evacuation hubs. Northern county residents should meet at the Pearland Recreation Center and southern county residents at the Angleton Fairgrounds. These residents will be driven to a pre-arranged shelter in Belton, Texas.
For residents with their own transportation, officials urge they leave as early as possible. Mandatory evacuation orders will be based on zip codes and issued before a storm makes landfall. “As hurricanes can be extremely unpredictable and can become much more dangerous in a matter of hours, it is not safe to wait.” There are no mandated routes to use and any destination is acceptable. Designated evacuation routes from Brazoria County include SH 36, SH 288, and SH 6. Officials emphasize that choosing alternate routes may result in essential services such as food, and fuel being unavailable.
Those with nowhere to go or who may have financial challenges should drive to Belton, Texas, which has been assigned as the public shelter for Brazoria County residents. Belton is in Bell County about mid-way between Austin and Waco on IH 35. Residents are urged to keep their vehicle in good repair with at least a half tank of fuel, they check on friends and neighbors who may have special needs, and that a disaster supply kit be prepared in advance that will be ready to go when an evacuation order is given.
Brazoria County has established a partnership with an internet radio provider (www.kbraz.com) that will deliver information wherever an internet connection is available. This will allow up to the minute information on any smart phone or computer. Instructions on downloading a free app are on the website which otherwise provides important information, current weather conditions, news and sports, and several locally produced live shows and podcasts.
The guide emphasizes that those who choose to ignore an evacuation order do so at their own peril. There will be no shelters in Brazoria County and there will be no public or utility services available. “Hospitals will close, ambulances will not run, and police and fire cannot respond until the storm passes.”
The guide offers considerably more information than can be presented in this article. Greater detail on available public shelters and what can and cannot be taken to them is presented. How to facilitate animal evacuations is addressed for both small domestic animals and livestock. Tips to prepare your home and vehicle for storm water impact is also presented as is a Family Disaster Check List.
The Brazoria County Hurricane Preparedness Guide can be accessed on line at the Brazoria County website (www.BrazoriaC-ounty.com). Hard copies are also available at most local and county government offices. Additional information can be had by calling any Manvel emergency official or city hall.