Harvey Continues to Dump Rain over Area
By Will Johnson
HOUSTON COUNTY – As Hurricane Harvey reversed course and moved back into the Gulf of Mexico and the rain continued to fall on Monday morning, Houston County Fire Chief/Emergency Management Coordinator Roger Dickey was contacted about the current status of the oldest county in Texas.
“We are – for lack of a better term – extremely blessed in Houston County right now,” Dickey said. “The rain has been a little bit heavier in the southern part of the county. We’ve had about 8.52 inches here at my office in the park.”
He added while a good percentage of the rain is still soaking into the ground, the ground is almost saturated.
As far as the opening of shelters in Houston County, Dickey said the three designated Red Cross shelters – Crockett’s First Baptist Church and First United Methodist Church along with the Andrew J. Hopkins Activity Center at Crockett ISD – have not been activated as of yet.
“They are all on stand-by. We have had several calls from churches wanting to open up independently, but we have tried to discourage that. The reason being is number one they’re not supported by Red Cross and also if you open one up, you may be obligated for days or weeks,” he said.
“We have an unprecedented situation down south,” he continued, “and who knows when those folks will be able to get back home.”
The procedure to open the shelters would be to first get in touch with the contact personnel for each facility, Dickey explained.
“Once the doors are open, we immediately contact the Red Cross. The local folks may have their hands full for just a little while, but just as fast as they can, the Red Cross will send support personnel in. They will bring the supplies and food with them. Our shelters have cots and we have some others stored here in the county and they would also have access to those if they needed them,” he said.
Dickey explained the state’s plan was to shift all those fleeing the rising waters to the north towards the DFW Metroplex and then to backfill the shelters to the south.
“There are also some hospitals that might have to evacuate and we’ve never seen that before. I talked with Scott Brawley with the Red Cross and he said they are looking at the Lufkin/Nacogdoches area right now. I talked with Mrs. (Deborah) Blackwell with the Houston County Hospital District. That might be an option if there is an overflow and we need the space,” he said.
The fire marshal said the most recent forecasts are predicting if the storm moves back inland, the eye is projected to pass to the east of Houston County.
“We may get some wrap-around rain and that lessens our chance for the torrential downpours,” he said.
One of the many areas of concern is an adequate stock of bottled water and food supplies.
“I was at a meeting with the manger of Walmart this morning and he said he has more water coming on Tuesday. How long that lasts, who knows?” he said.
Another area of concern is fuel, Dickey indicated. Because a major part of the fuel comes out of the Houston area, it might be tough to acquire additional fuel if suppliers run out, Dickey said.
“While they may be able to get out today, tomorrow might be a different story. They are expecting more heavy rain this evening. I would recommend that you top off your tank every chance you get,” Dickey said.
“We had a meeting with all of the emergency management stakeholders this morning. We tried to make sure everyone was on the same sheet of music. If we start getting a large influx of evacuees, we are ready with traffic control around the loop to funnel everyone to the north,” he said.
According to Dickey, despite all the rain, Houston County is doing remarkably well.
“Now, if it keeps on raining, those types of things could change,” he said. “Right now, we are okay as far as power outages. If we can keep power that will carry us a lot further down the road.”
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.