By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – Even though Houston County is 150 miles away from the Gulf of Mexico, the potential of danger and damage from a hurricane is very real. The effects of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike can still be seen in areas of the county.
The storms that ripped through Crockett last month left a path of destruction on E. Loop 304 in Crockett. Fortunately, the damage was limited and no one suffered any major injuries.
There is no question the weather in East Texas is unpredictable and while it’s a safe bet to say the summer months behind the pine curtain will be hot and dry 90 percent of the time, the unpredictability of the remaining 10 percent of weather events dictates certain precautions and preparations should be taken.
Armed with this knowledge, the Grapeland Housing Authority hosted a public seminar on emergency management preparation. The seminar was presented by Houston County Fire Marshal and Emergency Management Coordinator Roger Dickey.
“Emergency management is an ever growing, evolving monster – for lack of a better term – and we have kind of learned by our mistakes on what to do better on in the future in order to be prepared,” Dickey said.
The fire marshal defined emergency management as “… the creation of plans in which communities reduce their vulnerabilities to hazards or disasters. Disaster management does not eliminate the threat, but instead it focuses on plans to decrease the affects. Basically, if we fail to plan, we plan to fail.”
Dickey said there were five areas of planning which his office focused on. The areas discussed were: prevention; protection; mitigation; response; and recovery.
Following a brief discussion on the responsibilities involved with the administration of emergency management, Dickey segued into an overview of preparedness for hurricane season.
As he began, he mentioned the National Hurricane Center was keeping a close eye on two disturbances currently in existence. Dickey said the first was area of disturbance was in the southern area of the Gulf of Mexico while the second was off the northwest coast of Africa.
Dickey explained if the weather disturbances began to intensify, he would start calling around in an attempt to make sure the area had appropriate amounts of fuel and readily available supplies of drinking water.
“In 2017, the National Hurricane Center predicts 11 to 17 storms, with five to nine of these storms developing into hurricanes and two to four of these developing into category three hurricanes,” he said.
“People have been heard to say ‘we’re pretty far from the coast. I’m not going to worry about it.’ But, I remember in the last decade or so we’ve had storms that came through here that knocked the power out for a week, (brought) flooding issues along with a lot of evacuees who have come through here. So, it does affect us,” he said.
While handing out an emergency supply checklist, Dickey indicated there was nothing a person could do to prevent a hurricane from striking the area, there were ways to prepare in the event a hurricane or other natural disaster struck the East Texas area.
Among the items listed were: a three day supply of food and water; utensils such as a can opener, knife, fork, spoon, etc.; a first aid kit along with an 30 day supply of prescription medication; a whistle to signal for help; a dust mask; plastic sheeting and duct tape to help shelter in place advisories; flashlights and radios with extra batteries; assorted tools; a fire extinguisher; sanitation products including soap, bleach and detergent; several changes of clothes; special items for infants, elderly and disabled persons; cash or traveler’s checks; important documents stored in a waterproof container; pet food and supplies; garbage bags; maps; first aid books; sleeping bags and blankets; matches; paper and writing instruments; infant formula and diapers; feminine supplies; and extra dentures.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.