State's Top Emergency Manager Says Texas Ready For Storm Season

With the start of hurricane season just two weeks away, emergency managers from across the state are dusting-off their disaster plans. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, the top emergency manager in Texas says the state is ready as ever if any big storms come our way this year.
sky of a hurricane...intense clouds"We're just so much better than we were five years ago. We have this awareness now of what right looks like in terms of what we saw with Katrina and what we saw with Rita."

Jack Colley is the chief of the Governor's Division of Emergency Management. He seems about as relaxed as the man in charge of the state's disaster plans could be. It's been a few years since Texas was affected by Hurricane. Not since Katrina and Rita has the state had to deal with a real storm. He says that doesn't mean the state doesn't try to improve its emergency plans.

"We know here in Texas above anybody else that the single greatest natural threat to this state is a catastrophic hurricane. We know that. The leadership of Texas knows that and accepts that. We have a very focused effort and if all of us understand that and understand that's the threat, then we continue to prepare for it."

Last August, Hurricane Dean threatened the Texas coast, but ended up in Mexico. The state was able to deploy extra gas to areas along the coast and have National Guardsman in place in the Valley just in case. Colley says evacuating residents with special needs is still the most important part of the state's plan.

"The priority for the state is the evacuation of those who cannot evacuate themselves, for whatever reasons. That is a commitment we have to do that. It takes a lot of teamwork to make that happen and commitment by the state to do that. It's not just talk. It's a reality that we have. We are much better and our job is to get better."

Colley says the state has improved it's plan to evacuate pets and is also continuing to work on ways to get fuel to affected areas in the event of a big storm. He says Houston's traffic contra-flow plan has gotten a lot better as well.

"We have a very detailed contra-flow plan. This is a big challenge because of the sheer size of the community. 3.5 million people live in this area. We have a very good plan here. It's rehearsed. It's planned for. It's a large plan, but it's a good plan."

Colley was at a hurricane conference in Galveston today, along with about 2000 other emergency managers from across the state.
Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...