“We’re just so much better than we were five years ago. We have this
awareness now of what right looks like in terms of what we saw with
Katrina and what we saw with Rita.”
Jack Colley is the chief of the Governor’s Division of Emergency Management.
He seems about as relaxed as the man in charge of the state’s disaster plans
could be. It’s been a few years since Texas was affected by Hurricane. Not
since Katrina and Rita has the state had to deal with a real storm. He
says that doesn’t mean the state doesn’t try to improve its emergency plans.
“We know here in Texas above anybody else that the single greatest natural
threat to this state is a catastrophic hurricane. We know that. The leadership
of Texas knows that and accepts that. We have a very focused effort and if
all of us understand that and understand that’s the threat, then we continue
to prepare for it.”
Last August, Hurricane Dean threatened the Texas coast, but ended up in
Mexico. The state was able to deploy extra gas to areas along the coast
and have National Guardsman in place in the Valley just in case. Colley
says evacuating residents with special needs is still the most important
part of the state’s plan.
“The priority for the state is the evacuation of those who cannot
evacuate themselves, for whatever reasons. That is a commitment
we have to do that. It takes a lot of teamwork to make that happen
and commitment by the state to do that. It’s not just talk. It’s a reality
that we have. We are much better and our job is to get better.”
Colley says the state has improved it’s plan to evacuate pets and is
also continuing to work on ways to get fuel to affected areas in the
event of a big storm. He says Houston’s traffic contra-flow plan has
gotten a lot better as well.
“We have a very detailed contra-flow plan. This is a big challenge
because of the sheer size of the community. 3.5 million people live
in this area. We have a very good plan here. It’s rehearsed. It’s planned
for. It’s a large plan, but it’s a good plan.”
Colley was at a hurricane conference in Galveston today, along
with about 2000 other emergency managers from across the state.