PA: Storm ready

Published 4:23 pm Tuesday, June 12, 2018

As the city of Port Arthur makes strides to fully recover from Harvey’s historical flooding, a bigger picture unfolds.

Hurricane season is upon us, not all of the city’s buildings are operational, though the jobs are still being done. State and federal funding and reimbursements are in the works and there has been a change of command in emergency management.

All of this could be a recipe for disaster or a formula to success, and city officials say Port Arthur is the latter — the city is storm ready.

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Damages during Harvey included 24 city buildings such as:

  • Public works and water utilities operation complex on H.O. Mills Boulevard
  • Port Arthur Public Library
  • Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center
  • Three fire stations (Station Six at 4448 Ninth Ave., Station Eight at 7800 Ninth Ave. and Station Five at 6055 Lewis Foster Drive)

The Harvey damages also included:

  • Over 60 lift stations and pump stations
  • 269 pieces of equipment including rolling stock such as cars, trucks and heavy equipment

Repairs to some of the damaged buildings are complete; the civic center recently reopened as did Fire Station Six. The library will likely reopen in early fall as shelving and other necessary items have been ordered and work continues on stations five and eight.

“Contracts were awarded this week for remediating to begin and repairs on the public works and water utilities operation complex,” Rebecca Underhill, assistant to the city manager, said.

Funding for repairs

“We are currently working through funding with flood, wind and property insurance carriers for damage to public facilities and equipment,” she said. “To date, $4 million has been received for equipment and $2.6 million for facilities exclusive of ‘turnkey projects.’

The civic center, library and fire station six are being repaired through the Texas Municipal League “Turnkey” program. Underhill explained TML, the city’s insurance carrier, was contracted directly to have these facilities repaired.

The city is also working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for

  • Disaster response; debris removal, police, fire, public works personnel costs, shelters, temporary facilities and repairs
  • Permanent restoration work; public facilities, roadways, utility systems (lift stations, pump stations, etc.). To date the city has received funds for debris removal, $11.375 million from FEMA and the state.
  • South East Texas Regional Planning Commission/General Land Office for Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery infrastructure, housing and other program funds
  • FEMA and Texas Department of Emergency Management hazard mitigation grants
  • Rebuild Texas and other grant opportunities

A large portion of CDBG money — $2.3 billion or 45 percent has been promised to Houston and Harris County. But much of it has not, including $205 million for homeowner assistance programs, $51.6 million for local buyout and acquisition program money, and $105.5 million for local infrastructure programs that is headed to SETRPC’s three counties: Jefferson, Hardin and Orange.


Port Arthur’s infrastructure took a huge hit with Harvey’s flooding and work is being done to repair the damage. Temporary repairs have been done on lift stations and at city facilities, and the city is looking at more permanent repairs and “in some cases, mitigate work to make the facility strong and more resilient in future storms,” she said.

Preparing for this
hurricane season

Hurricane preparations for a municipality are much more complex than for the average resident. Planning is basically a year-round practice with things ramping up before the storm season begins.

Port Arthur, as well as the three Mid County cities of Nederland, Groves and Port Neches, have penned a contract with Walker County as a point to point shelter, meaning residents who do not have transportation or other means to evacuate will take a bus to that county for shelter.

Pre-disaster contracts are in place for disaster support and management and debris removal and monitoring.

“We are reviewing and updating our emergency operations plan, which is rated at the advanced level by the State of Texas, the highest level attainable,” she said.

In addition, the city staff participated in the annual hurricane preparation meeting and the public has been reminded to register with the Southeast Texas Alerting Network, or STAN, to receive emergency messages during a local emergency.


Interim police chief John Owens was recently reinstated as co-emergency management coordinator for the city, a duty he shares with Port Arthur Deputy Fire Chief Louie Havens, and preparations have been made for a disaster.

Communication is one of the key topics.

“We’ve instituted some additional preparedness activities such as meeting with our respected department heads to emphasize the necessity of knowing who the essential personnel are and have accurate contact information,” Owens said.

In short, each department head has identified their essential personnel by definition of the city charter in the event of a disaster response and those key individuals know their specific responsibilities regarding emergency preparedness and response. They have received the necessary training for emergency preparedness, he explained.

“We have identified any shortfalls and addressed those accordingly,” he said. “We emphasized the importance of tram work, and open communication is paramount to ensure we are prepared and the communication network is streamlined to ensure all of us stay on the same page so to speak.”

Communication is not just important between city employees but on a much broader scale.

Owens said there is a redundant communication plan in place with department heads and communication plans with local emergency management officials and elected officials as well as state and federal partners.

“We not only have open communication but maintain that open communication and redundant communication,” he said. “God forbid we have another (storm) but we have a back up in place that has been tested and is ready in case that occurs.”

Owens said city and local officials meet and continue to meet with the county partners and state and federal partners on issues that may come up this storm season.

“We are all aware of changes and modifications and improvements and continue to stay in touch with local, county, state and federal partners. It is a primary importance that we foster that relationship.”