The Seabreeze Beacon

TBCD and County Preparing for Busy Hurricane Season


By Gloria Way 

  All weather indicators predict an extremely busy hurricane season for southeast Texas. The only positive thing about hurricane season is that you know it’s coming, and you have time to prepare. But we also know that no matter how well you prepare, it is impossible to escape unscathed from the destructive tendencies of “biblical” tropical storms and hurricanes.

  I spoke with Jerry Shadden, General Manager of Trinity Bay Conservation District (TBCD), and asked him about TBCD’s preparation for the 2024 hurricane season. TBCD Board Director Les Hankamer immediately interjected that you cannot prepare enough for a 42-inch rain in 24 hours. Hurricane Harvey and Tropical Storm Imelda made the Winnie area and Chambers County painfully aware of that fact. Shadden said, “We have cleaned Spindletop and all the tributaries that go into it and all the other ditches. We have an ariel spray program that works well on spraying the ditches of trees and bushes. Also, the last 10-inch rain we had, we had no problem at all. So, we just continue to clean ditches and do everything we can do. We are running more machines than we ever had. We are doing more work than we have before. We are covering more ground than ever before.” He added, “We have tested all our generators, and they are ready to go. We have fuel contracts in place, we have disaster recovery contracts in place, we have a disaster coordinator on standby, so we have pretty much everything that the county has in place. So, when a disaster happens, we just execute the contracts.”  I asked Shadden if TBCD is better prepared than in the past, and he responded, “We have done pretty good in the past. We are getting better all the time.”

  Ryan Dagley, Commissioner Pct. 4, is Commissioners Court liaison to Chambers County Emergency Medical Services. He echoed Shadden’s sentiments. “Chambers County is absolutely covered for disaster response,” said Dagley. “We have executed contracts for debris monitoring and removal, food services, fuel, equipment rental, hazmat remediation, and shelter.” Over the years, Chambers County EMS has planned, prepared, and practiced disaster response through drills and tabletop exercises with Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) and FEMA.

  So how is the county preparing to hopefully lessen the pain of anticipated high winds and heavy rains this hurricane season? As Dagley reported, everything is in place to deal with the aftermath of a disastrous event but what is being done before the storm, to “soften” the impact of a tropical storm or hurricane? Jimmy Gore, Commissioner Pct. 1, told me that he is ensuring that the county’s road and bridge department will start working a five day/10-hour weekly schedule as opposed to the current four day/10 hour work schedule. “This way, we can clean more ditches and fix more roads and bridges. We have put overtime pay in the budget for the five/10 work schedule,” he added.

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