Yes, hurricane season has been under way for almost two months now, but the peak threat for the Texas coast exists in August and September. Also, Tropical Storm Dorian is gaining strength in the Atlantic and is approaching the Caribbean.
Longtime residents well remember the “big three” to slam into the Coastal Bend.
Carla, with its devastating winds (as high as 170 mph), made landfall near Port O’Connor on Sept. 11, 1961. It strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane, the most intense U.S. tropical cyclone landfall, and spawned the largest tornado outbreak at that time (26 twisters).
Beulah, which slogged across southern Texas with torrential rains in 1967, spawned 115 tornadoes, which established a new record. On Sept. 20, the storm hit Brownsville with winds estimated at 140 mph and moved slowly northward, dropping more than 27 inches of rain in Bee County. Throughout its path, at least 688 people were killed.
Celia, the last major storm to make landfall near Corpus Christi, arrived on Aug. 3, 1970, as a strong Category 3 hurricane. It caused 15 fatalities and left damages totaling $930 million, the costliest disaster in Texas at that time.
Obviously, 43 years is a long time, and Robert Bridge, Bee County emergency management coordinator, is justifiably concerned about public apathy.
“I need to do my part in keeping people aware of the potential for a hurricane to occur,” he said. “We don’t need a storm out in the Gulf before people start being prepared.”
Most importantly, he requested Bee Countians go online to register with Blackboard Connect, a mass notification system. By doing so, residents will receive phone calls and text messages in the event of an emergency, such as an approaching hurricane.
People also should pick up a copy of a hurricane preparedness booklet published by Corpus Christi television station KIII, available at numerous locations, including his office and at Walmart.
The informative booklet provides handy preparation tips for the home, business, pets, insurance, etc. It also lists the Red Cross recommendations for a hurricane supply kit, including seven-day supply of non-perishable food and water; battery-powered portable TV or radio with extra batteries; flashlight; First Aid kit and manual; sanitation and hygiene items; cash; and many other items.
Bridge added that those with special needs should register with 211 so they can be evacuated in the case of an emergency. “It’s easy to do. Just dial 211 and follow the instructions – and they’re available in both English and Spanish.”
The Emergency Operations Center in the Bee County Justice Center is ready for a hurricane, and is armed with the latest technology and ham radio equipment he noted. City and county leaders would go there to gather and disseminate emergency information.
Many here may remember the inconvenience caused by Claudette, a minor hurricane in July 2003 which caused moderate damage with 90 mph winds and knocked out power to several homes and businesses for days.
Much better to take a few moments now and make preparations, rather than frantically search for help when a major hurricane is churning toward the Coastal Bend.
– Chip Latcham