The official start to hurricane season each year is June 1, and this year’s season started with Hurricane Agatha making landfall in Mexico as a Category 2 storm. While the remnants of that weakening hurricane pose little to no threat to Southeast Texas, it is a reminder that now is the time to prepare.
“Don’t wait until a storm is in the gulf to get ready,” said Crista Beasley-Adams, coordinator of the Liberty County Office of Emergency Management. “The theme for this year’s hurricane season is, ‘The gulf is ready, are you?’ Because of temperatures in the gulf are expected to be warm this year, it’s ripe for an active hurricane season.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that 2022 may see 14-21 named storms in the Atlantic with 6 to 10 of those becoming hurricanes and 3 to 6 reaching major hurricane status.
Based on the models used by NOAA to make the predictions, there is a 65 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 25 percent chance of a near-normal season and a 10 percent chance of a below-normal season.
When making storm preparations, Beasley said Southeast Texans should remember the varying challenges of the recent hurricanes, including Rita and Ike.
“Don’t just prepare for a Harvey, which was mostly a flood event. Prepare for an Ike or Rita where there could be sustained periods of time where there is no power and very few grocery stores or gas stations open. During Hurricane Rita, Liberty County was without power for two weeks,” Beasley-Adams said.
Hurricane Rita also posed major problems for some water and sewer systems that were not connected to backup generators. Since that time, improvements have been made to prevent such outages, but backup generators can experience mechanical or electrical problems, so residents should stay prepared.
“You should always have 72 hours of non-perishable food items and water on hand for every person who lives in your household. You should also have pet food, medicine, supply kits and batteries. If a storm is imminent, evaluate your plans and let your extended family members know of your plans. Once you make a plan, stick to it or alert your family members of the changes,” Beasley-Adams said.
When people fail to notify their family members that they have evacuated, it can create costly and potentially dangerous situations for law enforcement and first responders.
“During Hurricane Harvey, a local game warden was sent out in a boat to check on a family who was said to be stranded, only to find out that the family had evacuated and failed to alert their family members,” she said. “It’s a waste of time and resources to check on people who have evacuated.”
The start to hurricane season is also a good time to evaluate your insurance policies and speak to your insurance agents. If you feel you are lacking coverage, talk to your insurance agent about upping the coverage. Do not let your insurance coverage lapse. Once a storm is in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s too late to purchase or augment your homeowner’s insurance policy.
While Liberty County is typically a pass-through, shelter-in-place county during hurricanes, there have been times in the past when a mandatory evacuation has been issued by the county judge. In a mandatory evacuation, residents who remain are left to fend for themselves for a few days.
With Liberty County’s recent growth, there undoubtedly are new residents who have never before gone through a hurricane or tropical storm. Beasley-Adams said her office frequently receives calls from people who have never before seen the types of thunderstorms that are typical in Southeast Texas.
The elderly, disabled or with limited mobility, non-English speakers, people in a crisis or requiring transportation assistance, those with limited reading skills and people who are new to a community should consider registering with the Texas Emergency Assistance Registry through the Texas Department of Emergency Management. To register, go online to https://stear.tdem.texas.gov/Login.aspx and fill out the required forms or call 211 on your phone. You will be required to provide your name, address, phone number and primary language. Registration is voluntary and does not necessary guarantee you will be assisted during an emergency.
Beasley-Adams also recommends residents sign up for alerts through the Nixle system, which is used by the county and other entities to relay important information to subscribers to the service. Alerts are sent by text message with standard text message rates applied. To register, text your zip code to 888777. You can also register for alerts in other areas.
“For instance, if parents have a kid in college and want to keep up with emergencies in the area where their child is located, they can submit the zip code for that area as well,” she said.
Here are some other helpful tips on preparing for hurricane season:
HOW TO PREPARE
- Know your hurricane risk – Coastal residents are not the only ones impacted by a storm. Rain, water, wind, water and tornadoes can happen far inland.
- Make an emergency plan – Visit ready.gov to download a checklist of items you will need to weather a storm. Emergency management chiefs suggest that people have enough food, water and supplies to survive for several days until resources can be mobilized. Be sure to include items for your pets, livestock and other animals. Check on elderly family members and neighbors to make sure they have an ample amount of food, water and medicines.
- Not everyone who is impacted by a hurricane is required to evacuate. Liberty County is a pass-through county with no emergency shelters for residents in neighboring counties. If you live in an area prone to flooding, you may still need to evacuate. If you are impacted by the threat of rising water or flash flooding, you should learn evacuation routes and communicate your plans with family and friends.
- If you evacuate, take with you all important documents, such as vital records, insurance policies and personal documents. Consider making copies of these items and storing them on your cloud storage. Photos can also be uploaded to cloud storage to prevent losing them in a catastrophe.
- Stay ready. If you know a storm is imminent and may be a threat to your home or business, be sure to charge all your electrical devices, such as phones and tablets. Also consider purchasing backup battery chargers.
- Try to prevent damage through responsible maintenance. Clean out gutters and storm drains, tie down items that may blow away such as trampolines and deck umbrellas.
Once a storm appears to be threatening, sure to store your basic disaster supply kit items in airtight plastic bags or bins to avoid them being damaged. The following is a list of the recommended items as provided by Ready.gov:
- Water (one gallon per person per day for several days, for drinking and sanitation)
- Food (at least a several-day supply of non-perishable food)
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle (to signal for help)
- Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
- Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
- Manual can opener (for food)
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
Consider adding the following items to your emergency supply kit based on your individual needs:
- Masks (for everyone ages 2 and above), soap, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes to disinfect surfaces
- Prescription medications. About half of all Americans take a prescription medicine every day. An emergency can make it difficult for them to refill their prescription or to find an open pharmacy. Organize and protect your prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, and vitamins to prepare for an emergency.
- Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives
- Prescription eyeglasses and contact lens solution
- Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes and diaper rash cream
- Pet food and extra water for your pet
- Cash or traveler’s checks
- Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
- Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes
- Fire extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
- Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
- Paper and pencil
- Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
Hurricane season will not end until Nov. 30, so stay ready, Beasley-Adams said.
“We share a lot of information on the Liberty County Office of Emergency Management Facebook page. If people want to keep up with the latest information about a hurricane or other emergency, be sure to follow us on Facebook,” she said.