Riding in the backseat of my parent’s old Chevrolet Impala, the devastation that Hurricane Carla made in 1961 along US 59, south of Houston, made a big impression on this little girl’s mind.
I never thought much about hurricanes in the years that followed until we experienced Hurricane Rita and Katrina here in East Texas. Whether you experienced property damage or were part of the traffic congestion on US 59 as thousands of people evacuated their homes to escape the devastating storms, they left their mark on you also.
Maybe it was the long lines for gasoline or the lines at the grocery stores that were unforgettable, because they did not end for days. Most of us did not have a plan for what to do in that type of emergency and we were caught unprepared when it happened.
As the 80-plus mile an hour winds blew around my house, I could hear trees popping and the loud thud as they hit the ground. I quickly made sure I tended to the important things, like checking on the whereabouts of my children and parents. Rest of my emergency plan included grabbing a flashlight, a makeup bag, matches and a bottle of wine (with an opener) which I placed by the front door in case I needed to run for cover.
That plan of action was not the best and I don’t recommend that you do what I did. Make your plan of action well in advance of a storm, whether it is a hurricane or the threat of a tornado. The devastation our neighbors to the north have seen recently hits close to home and has caused us to realize that we all need to be prepared before a storm hits.
I was without power for more than a week after Hurricane Rita, but luckily, I had a generator and plenty of gasoline. There were 18 trees lying across my front yard that somehow missed our house when they fell. We were safe, no thanks to my advance preparations.
I thought of those storms recently when I attended a Hurricane Conference in Galveston. The professionals who spoke included meteorologists, emergency response representatives, travel industry experts and communication
professionals from several agencies. We were all there to hear the 2017 hurricane predictions, best practices for emergency response and how to safely move traffic in contraflow patterns northward on US 59 and other interstates. As I watched the calm Gulf waters roll into Galveston beach from the beautiful view of the Galveston Convention Center, it was hard to imagine what it could and will look like the next time a hurricane blows through those waters.
Hurricane season has already begun and will continue into the fall. We might not see the average 12 storms they are predicting this year, although there have already been tropical depressions. We don’t pay much attention to them if they don’t threaten us, but it is likely we could see at least one or more major storms this year.
TxDOT urges you to make a plan. Plan ahead of time where you will go if you must evacuate. Be prepared for flooding. I used sandbags during Hurricane Rita to keep water from entering my home. I know many of you did
too. If you have to drive, don’t drive through flooded roadways.
Keep an emergency kit ready in your home – and I don’t mean a makeup bag. Have extra batteries and flashlights on hand, check the generator and keep extra fuel on hand if possible. Make sure your family knows what to do should you become separated during a storm.
Write your plan down and keep it where your family can see it. Making a plan not only makes you feel more secure, but it increases your chances of survival.
Know that your local emergency response professionals stand ready to help. TxDOT is prepared and ready 24/7.
We discuss best safety practices monthly in safety meetings. In the threat of flooding or storms, we are part of a statewide conference call to hear the best plan of action.
TxDOT maintenance professionals hold safety tailgate meetings each morning to remind each other of safety procedures should an emergency or disaster strike.
Because in real life, you never know when a dangerous situation will occur.
Being ready is better than not being ready. Life turns on a dime and a disaster can strike within a few seconds, and a makeup bag and a bottle of wine will not protect you.
Please keep your family ready and safe.