By Brian Besch
The Polk County Office of Emergency Management held its annual Hurricane Party Wednesday at Dunbar Gymnasium in Livingston, sharing its hurricane preparedness plans and information with the community.
Speakers at the event included Emergency Management Coordinator Courtney Comstock, Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy and Dan Reilly of the National Weather Service.
The hurricane season is generally June until the end of November, though May storms have not been uncommon in recent years. The season usually ramps up in August and peaks in September. Texas, based on the past, is typically in good shape once the calendar turns to October.
Every storm is different, bringing high surf, rip currents, winds and flooding in different proportions. The highest winds are in the eye wall of the hurricane, Just to the right of the eye. It tends to have higher winds and the most severe weather.
Reilly said 2023 is setting up for an El Nino pattern, which would imply fewer storms overall. However, the Atlantic sea surface temperatures are unusually warm, which could imply more storms. Texas hurricane landfalls seem to be less common with El Nino. For the most part, forecasts are similar, predicting a near normal season overall in terms of the amount of tropical storms and hurricanes.
Though the storm season may not be as active as in previous years, Reilly reminded all that it only takes one large storm to cause devastation. In 1983, the season was quiet and inactive, however, Hurricane Alicia reached winds of 115 miles per hour and caused $3 billion (in 1983 USD) in damages.
When large storms, such as hurricanes, threaten the Polk County area, the Emergency Operations Center will operate daily until deactivation. Action plans will be produced for each operational period.
Comstock reminded all that Polk County Shelters are located at Dunbar Gymnasium, Polk County Commerce Center, Big Sandy ISD, Onalaska Jr./Sr. High School, Corrigan-Camden ISD, Goodrich ISD, Leggett ISD, Livingston Junior High School, Pine Ridge Elementary, Timbercreek Elementary and local churches.
The closest state shelter hubs are located in Lufkin and Walker County. Evacuation routes are U.S. Highway 59, State Highway 146 and U.S. Highway 287 West. Evacuations are ordered by county judges and mayors. Evacuees will be directed to state sheltering hubs. School rural transportation system and state buses can be utilized for evacuations. Ambulances and state requested medical buses can be used to evacuate people with medical needs.
Primary points of distribution are located at the Precinct 1 road and bridge yard, Onalaska VFD, VF Outlet parking lot and the Debbie D. Marshall Activity Center. Secondary points are Goodrich ISD, Big Sandy High School, Onalaska Jr./Sr. High School, Corrigan-Camden High School and the South Polk County VFD.
The Polk County Office of Emergency Management will distribute emergency public information via sources such as AlertMePolkCounty; the Polk County OEM and Polk County, Texas Facebook page; The Polk County, Texas and OEM website; the Polk County Enterprise Facebook page and website; and KETX radio.