KEN STICKNEY — Go extra mile for hurricane prep

Published 12:08 am Wednesday, July 10, 2019

My wife’s got a reunion — it’s of the milestone version — that’s looming at month’s end.

Six months back, I chose the role of supportive spouse and, eager to at least not shame her, stepped up my efforts at the gym. Yes, she might bring a grandpa as her reunion date, but he needn’t be a slob.

A week ago, I took stock of my personal progress and decided that while it fell short of my early goals, it wasn’t so bad. I’d lost five pounds, not 20, but I decided I’d firmed up this much: If I can’t impress her classmates, I can at least fade into the background without being noticeably out of shape. Sometimes we adjust our goals.

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That was good enough for me until a day or two later, when a work friend said, “I guess you’ve given up on the gym, huh?” Oh-oh.

I’d gotten the sort of oh-so-late warning that Southeast Texans are getting this week as they prepare for what might be the approach of a hurricane. In Georgia, a low-pressure system was advancing south toward the Gulf of Mexico on Monday. Meteorologists were crafting models that showed, first, that a significant storm might land between Mobile and New Orleans. Later, the models pointed to high winds and heavy rains that would land farther west, perhaps in western Louisiana or Southeast Texas. Oh-oh.

Worried? Some folks might be. Forecasters were using the “H” word, category 1.

We’d been told Monday that local people were lining up at the grocery stores, preparing for a storm that might not show its hand until late Wednesday or early Thursday and wouldn’t arrive until the weekend. I didn’t find that the case on Monday night, when I followed up on my (apparently futile) nightly gym effort with a trip to the market to buy a few cans of beans, some crackers and a gallon of water. Ought to make an effort, at least, at prepping for the approaching storm.

Truth is, I’d talked about the weather prospects a few hours earlier with the National Weather Service meteorologist who is tasked with major storm warnings. He’d said that despite a heads-up from the National Hurricane Center, it was still too early to know what the weather might bring. Lots of rain, perhaps, and some high winds, too. But until the low-pressure system enters the Gulf, he said, it’s just too hard to know what might happen or where, for sure, it might happen.

How’s your own storm preparation? I don’t mean the canned food and bottled water in the pantry and spare cash tucked into your sock drawer. That’s the sort of basic preparation that helped me lose five pounds in six months. It was the least I could manage, but I wanted to prepare better for my big event. If your storm prep’s no better than that: Oh-oh.

No, I’m talking about genuine preparation, the sort that might convince Carey’s classmates, when she walks into her reunion on my arm, that she’d done well for herself. That sort of erstwhile preparation that helps you lose 20 pounds and be at your best for the big occasion. Or to be fully prepped for a hurricane.

In May, The Port Arthur News published its annual Hurricane Season Preparedness Guide and an insurance and risk expert — OK, it was Stuart Salter — suggested you should check your flood and windstorm coverage. Flood insurance takes a month to kick in, so time’s passed for that, at least for this storm, if it materializes. Windstorm insurance kicks in if there’s not a storm in the Gulf. You might want to check your map and see where the storm is today.

Of course, there’s four-plus more months of hurricane season after this weekend so now’s better than never to purchase flood insurance. And, truth be known, hurricanes don’t always abide by the calendar.

How’s Port Arthur’s preparation? Well, they’ve done some engineering on Jimmy Johnson, a flood trouble spot, and city crews have worked hard on ditches. There’s a lot of work left to do and federal money is only now being made available to do it. Plans are for major — $26 million worth — of work in three areas of the city to combat more flooding. But that’s down the road.

Our city suffers for how its residents treat ditches. If they’ve become collection dumps in your neighborhood, clean them out now — even if you didn’t put the trash there.

Residents might remember that short months after Hurricane Harvey, a January 2018 storm with10 inches of rain overwhelmed some Port Arthur neighborhoods. A common complaint: There was trash in the ditches. If that’s the case for you, you might want to take action now.

Better late than … Oh-oh.

Ken Stickney is editor of The Port Arthur News.