Cities to sign on with Walker County for evacuations

Published 9:54 am Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Cities in Mid and South Jefferson County are gearing up to make Walker County the designated area for short-term shelter should there be a mandatory evacuation.

Port Arthur will consider the issue Tuesday during the City Council meeting while Port Neches, Nederland and Groves will consider approval of the interlocal agreement at their respective meetings.

The agreement will be for a maximum of 2,500 people with 200 to 300 of those residents coming from the Mid-County area and the rest from Port Arthur and is for people who may not have transportation out of town, are homebound or have no other means to get out of harm’s way.

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Louie Havens, deputy fire chief and deputy emergency management coordinator for the city of Port Arthur, said the number is based on how many residents evacuated or needed assistance during the previous evacuations.

Groves Fire Chief and emergency management coordinator Dale Jackson said the Mid County cities’ “sister city” did not renew their agreement, hence the reason the Mid County cities are using the same shelter-providing city as Port Arthur. This marks the first time the four will be in the agreement together.

Port Neches Fire Chief Paul Nelson said the local fire chiefs and the deputy chief made a trip to Walker County about three weeks ago.

“We were pretty impressed with their operation there and are real happy to invite them to be on board with this,” Nelson said, adding Walker County has about nine different facilities and a sheltering team that can staff and manage the operation.

Port Neches City Manager Andre Wimer said in the past, the three cities had a relationship with other entities and those were discontinued. The first one of those was Minneola and most recently, Brazos County.

Havens said the city of Port Arthur had an agreement with the Texarkana area during Hurricane Rita in 2005, then came the other hurricanes. People were transported from a shelter hub to Texarkana but after time the community lost the capacity to handle the volume of people Port Arthur was anticipating sending there.

Evacuees were also sent to the Bryan-College Station area in the past.