El Campo and the rest of Wharton County missed a screaming nightmare last weekend with the 150 mph winds of Hurricane Ida targeting Louisiana rather than Texas shores.
It simply means we got lucky this time, officials say.
“We won’t reach the mid-point of hurricane season until Sept. 10th. If you’re not prepared now, it would be a good time to get prepared,” Wharton County Emergency Management Coordinator Andy Kirkland said.
Each hurricane season weather forecasters provide tropical storms with a name, one for all but Q, U, X, Y and Z in the alphabet, once it sustains the 39 mph winds of a tropical storm. The 2021 season already has a Hurricane Larry in the Atlantic and an area of disturbed weather south of the Yucatan Peninsula.
That area is forecasted to spread heavy rains across the peninsula and then enter the Gulf.
It’s too early to say.
Plan now, Kirkland said, pointing out that Wharton County hasn’t faced the full-blown brunt of a storm since Hurricane Carla in 1961. You can only be lucky for so long.
“We need to prepare to take actions should a tropical system threaten our area,” Kirkland said.
Gov. Greg Abbott has proclaimed September Preparedness Month in Texas asking Texans to plan, prepare their emergency kits, learn their evacuation routes and create a communication strategy.
“The conditions of potential threats can change rapidly, it is essential to understand and heed warnings from local officials and emergency management personnel. In order to ensure a better and brighter future for the state of Texas, we must prepare today for a safer tomorrow,” the governor said as part of the announcement.
County officials routinely prepare, plan the “what ifs” and possible responses.
A high wind event is going to tear limbs off trees throwing them into roadways and at buildings. Power lines will snap. “Look at 2005 when Ike hit. On the Eastern half of the county, 25 percent lost electricity and that was only 55 mph wind gusts. It was out for like two weeks,” Kirkland said.
“The Wharton County Sheriff’s Office will patrol and handle calls until it is absolutely unsafe to do so,” Sheriff Shannon Srubar told the Leader-News, adding wind will force deputies to hunker down if a hurricane blows through.
Like all law enforcement, the department won’t stop operations and is prepared to call in state assistance if needed.
“During Hurricane Harvey (in 2017), Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Wardens and the National Guard were here to assist,” Srubar said, adding “Public safety and the wellbeing of the citizens (is paramount).”
Planning is too officials, say.
“These travel trailers and RV parks: those aren’t going to be safe places to be. A 40 to 50 mph wind will ruin your day in those,” Kirkland said. “And your home? Sure, it may survive the wind blowing 100 mph, but will it survive being hit by a 100 mph pecan tree?”
If a big storm hits, roads will be impassable for days, some longer than that. Power will be down for weeks, possibly months, if a Category 4 or 5 storm were to hit.
“If you think you are going to have a problem, you need to go ahead and go (evacuate the area),” Kirkland said.