With hurricane season underway, council reviews storm prep

Published 12:18 am Wednesday, June 21, 2023

As Tropical Storm Bret loomed near the coast of South America, the Port Arthur City Council on Tuesday gave a brief review of emergency management protocol as it was established for the 2023 hurricane season.

“Unfortunately in recent years our region has gained more hurricane response and evacuation experience than any other community in the state or the country,” said Mayor Thurman Bartie.

“With every response, we have learned and improved our operational capabilities. While the future is impossible to predict, should our community be threatened this year, we have experience, well-trained personnel and plans in place to address the needs of our community and adapt to any challenge that may arise.”

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Bartie said city officials have met with officials from Drainage District 7, local industries and other entities to create mutual aid agreements.

TotalEnergies supplies emergency diesel if needed.

And various campuses throughout the Port Arthur Independent School District can serve as temporary shelters in the event wind becomes a safety hazard.

“We have several homes in Port Arthur that probably wouldn’t be able to withstand 80 to 100 miles an hour wind over an extended period of time, and those individuals may need to be evacuated to local shelters,” Bartie said.

In the event of a mass evacuation, residents would gather at the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center, from where they would be bused to San Antonio.

But an evacuation, Bartie said, is not called lightly.

“I call it under some divine intervention,” he said. “I don’t just call it because I think I ought to say it. I’m divinely inspired at that moment if it needs be called and the emergency management team actually acquiesces. They put forth whatever needs to be done so this duty can be carried out.”

Port Arthur Police Department Deputy Chief Jermey Houston, who also serves as the city’s emergency management coordinator, said officials have met with other cities and counties as they created the disaster plan.

Houston said they’ve had meetings with Lumberton’s emergency management officials, Lumberton Independent School District and Hardin County.

In addition, they’ve also met with healthcare providers, nursing homes and hospitals to review disaster protocol.

Bartie advised all residents to take photos of their belongings prior to the arrival of a storm in order to be reimbursed through insurance.

In addition, all residents are encouraged to sign up for emergency notifications through the Southeast Texas Alerting Network. To do so, visit thestan.com.