From its miles of beaches to its bustling businesses, Galveston County’s rich history and opportunities attract hundreds of thousands of visitors and full time residents.
However, it’s also one of the most vulnerable areas in Texas for hurricanes. With winds able to reach upwards of 150 miles per hour, hurricanes can cause extensive damage, flooding and loss of life.
Galveston County must be ready for any possible disaster and to help residents better prepare for this hurricane season, Galveston County's Public Information Officer Brittany Rainville sat down with some of the areas leaders in emergency planning.
Chief Nim Kidd with the Texas Division of Emergency Management visited Galveston during the National Weather Service Hurricane Awareness Tour. He was in town to help spread the message of hurricane preparedness, something he said all Texans need to be proactive about
“In the last five years almost 2.3 million people have moved here most in coastal communities,” Kidd said. “Hurricane preparedness is everyone’s job it’s not just local government’s job, and when you think about evacuation people need to be familiar with where they live and what they will do when asked to evacuate.”
Locally, Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said his efforts are focused on informing residents about what to do before, during and after a hurricane. Most importantly, he said, urging them to make a plan now.
“Know where you’re going, call that person make sure it’s OK,” Henry said. “Things repeatedly missed are pets and prescriptions… now a simple evacuation is suddenly a medical emergency.”
Don’t just make a plan, test it out! That’s what City of Galveston’s Emergency Management Coordinator Charlie Kelly said he’s personally learned after witnessing the devastation associated with past hurricanes.
“Rita was predicted to be a category five, my family at the time evacuated around noon and it took them 35 hours to get to College Station,” Kelly said. “One thing I didn’t do that I preached, we didn’t have water or snacks in the car, my family went through devastation. We didn’t realize they were having those problems because we were busy evacuating people… that was pretty traumatic for me.”
Although many people have learned from mistakes made, Judge Henry said you can’t let your guard down.
“If we call for an evacuation it’s the last thing I want to do,” he said. “We don’t do that quickly, we have consulted every expert and they’ve concurred an evacuation is the right decision to make.”
Whether it’s a hurricane watch, warning or mandatory evacuation, Henry said staying informed is a major key.
“We have great tools if you are in the geography of Galveston County we can send a text to your phone, we also have electronic billboards and in five minutes we can have a sign on the board that says ‘time to evacuate,’” Henry said. “Also social media; I can’t overstate how important it is, you can’t compete with almost real time reporting.”
For more information on being prepared this hurricane season, including what should be on your emergency kit list, visit www.gcoem.org.