Are We Ready for the 2009 Hurricane Season?

Today marks the beginning of the 2009 hurricane season. It is a reality for people living near the gulf coast. While tracking hurricanes is now underway for the next six months, one local leader says preparing for the volatile storm season should be year round. Pat Hernandez has the story.

For the record, Hurricane Ike killed 114-people and caused 10-billion dollars in damage, especially in Galveston. Almost nine months later, many who are still recovering from Ike, have no choice but to get ready for the new hurricane season. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says the evacuation for Hurricane Ike went a lot smoother than the evacuation for Rita in 2007.

"We always tell people to have an evacuation plan, have a kit. But, we now realize that some people are gonna want to evacuate after the storm. And so, you can have a pre-storm plan and then have a post-storm plan, what happens if you lose power and you might be without power for a long time. Go ahead and figure out what you're gonna do in advance. But by all means, don't leave early just because you think you might lose power. That will put right back into the traffic congestion problems we had on Rita and we don't want that."

Emmett says the coordination of local state and federal agencies responding has become textbook, but that textbook is constantly being revised. Mark Sloan is Harris County Homeland Security Emergency Management coordinator. His office works with the 34-jurisdictions within Harris County and the first response community. It also puts together information for residents to be aware and prepared.

"It's about making sure that everyone is monitoring the situation and has their plans in place, so they know what they're supposed to be doing before landfall, and what they're going to be doing after landfall."

He agrees with Judge Ed Emmett that lessons learned from Hurricane Rita made for a smoother evacuation for Hurricane Ike. Emmett says Ike's biggest calling card was the devastation in areas like Seabrook and Shore Acres.

"That really makes you understand how powerful these storms are, and it also made me understand how we really dodged a bullet. That's just a terrifying thing to think about. People have got to take it seriously."

He says one new evacuation tool this hurricane season is the addition of 2-1-1 for anybody with special needs or without transportation.

"If you do not have the means to move yourself out of harms way, dial 2-1-1 now. And then, when the storm comes, we'll look at which zip codes are in danger, and we'll match that against the registry and somebody will call you, and knock on your door and come get you."

Judge Emmett says the key to weathering the hurricane season is preparation.

"Prepare as if a hurricane is going to hit in two weeks. Just assume it. If it doesn't happen, you know, there's no loss, and if at the end of the season, great. We'll all have a party."

Pat Hernandez, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

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