Storm Flooding and Evacuations the Focus for Lawmakers

The Texas Senate Subcommittee on flooding and evacuations hears testimony on Houston's response to Tropical Storm Edouard and efforts to stay prepared during hurricane season. Pat Hernandez says any recommendations will be taken to Austin to be considered in the next session.
The hearing — held at the University of Houston Hilton Hotel — featured local leaders in government and medicine, engineers and experts on building construction. Houston State Senator Mario Gallegos chairs the subcommittee. He says they might need to take a cue from other coastal communities.

"We're looking at good recommendations here from the professionals that know what they're talking about, from the EMS personnel. What we intend to do here is take the recommendations. Anything that they need in the form of legislation in the next session, we'll provide them and then try to introduce that type of legislation that Florida and the other coastal states presently have."

Doctor Ken Mattox heads Ben Taub Hospital. He told committee of the need for a regional, unified incident command.

"During the recent tropical storm of last week, we did make contact with individuals with whom we needed to interact, mainly to make sure our communication links were open. But having the ability to have a single unified command would be ideal, especially if something really big hits."

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett told the panel how TS Edouard provided a real training exercise. He offered one suggestion.

"We need to make sure that the various governmental entities have the interoperability of their radios so that everything can work well, and we need to be a little bit clearer I think, in terms of we know how evacuations occur. But we've got to make sure that our messages are always clear, because people say 'What do I do tomorrow? Do I go to work? Do I not go to work? How do we announce closings—even of government facilities?"

Gallegos says the price of gasoline has changed the agenda on evacuation.

"A lot of people can't afford the gas prices; can't afford the hundred bucks to fill their gas tank up and then just leave the city, because they're going to have to fill up again. That's a lot of money. We're offering another option, that they can go to one of these schools that HISD is committing to us.  They can go and take their family there, and be secure and be safe, and feel safe."

A lot of issues dealing with tropical storms and hurricanes were brought up. Gallegos says they will be considered when he and his colleagues meet in the next session of the legislature.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF...Houston Public Radio News.

Above image:  In the middle, Senator Mario Gallegos next to fellow members of the subcommittee.

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez


Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...