Hurricanes and the Texas Gulf Coast

Link to National Hurricane Center

Photo by Darryl Hanus
All rights reserved.

A hurricane is one of nature's most devastating storms. These storms typically develop between June 1st and November 30th with September being the peak time for hurricane formation. Residents living along coastal waters must be prepared should one approach our area. Hurricanes can inundate an area with heavy rains, damaging winds, abnormally high tides, and even tornadoes. Roads that normally serve as evacuation routes can quickly become impassable. Residents are urged to create an emergency plan BEFORE a hurricane ever forms. The safest thing to do is to leave the area when a hurricane watch is issued. With the ratification of House Bill 3111 in June of 2005, the county judge and/or city mayor now have the authority to call for a MANDATORY evacuation of an area.

Before a Storm-

Before hurricane season begins in June, homeowners should have already begun to prepare for a possible hurricane. The first thing to do is to develop a family emergency plan. Be sure to practice your plan so everyone knows what to do. The federal government offers an on-line planning tool to assist citizens in establishing an emergency plan. Click here for more information.

The following are some general guidelines as you prepare for hurricane season.

Property- Clean up around your home. Dispose of any items that you no longer use that might be cluttering up your yard or downstairs area. When a watch or warning is issued, secure items in your yard including your grill, hanging plants, lounge chairs, tables, wood piles, window screens, door mats, patio furniture, wind chimes, water craft, and anything else that could be propelled by high winds or rising water into a neighbors home or your own home. Make sure you have storage space for these items before a watch or warning is issued. Expect six feet of water (or more) to inundate the area- everything below that mark may be covered by corrosive salt water.

Insurance- Read your insurance policy. Speak with your insurance agent regarding your homeowner and automobile policies. Be aware of what is covered and what is excluded. Most homeowner policies will not cover rising water (storm surge). Others won't insure damage caused from wind blown rain. Speak with your agent and examine all of your options. Keep enough cash in a "liquid" account (such as checking, savings, or money market account) to meet any possible insurance deductible and for short term needs. Be self reliant and do not expect the government to help you.

Pets- If you have animals, have a plan to ensure for their care during a storm. Most shelters will not accept animals. A kennel (for dogs and cats) might be a viable option during a hurricane. Locate a kennel northwest from our area that is not located near a creek or bayou. Speak with the kennel owner and ask how the business has weathered past storms. Ask questions regarding animal care during storms. Inspect the facilities for yourself. Does the structure appear sound? Is the roof more than corrugated plastic panels? Has the area flooded before? Does the owner accept animals prior to a hurricane? Will space be available? Ask all your questions before you leave your animal(s).

Supplies- Begin to purchase extra canned goods, bottled water, and other non-perishable food items. Locate your manual can opener or purchase one if you do not own one. Stock up on batteries to run radios, flashlights, and other battery powered items. An inverter and car/marine battery can run a small television for five to eight hours or a small radio for 50+ hours should power fail. (Note: Be sure to read all instructions regarding the use of inverters and automotive batteries. This link has information regarding inverters and their use.)
Have enough plywood to board up windows. You do not have to place the plywood on the exterior. Measure and cut the wood to fit the inside area of the window. This method might be easier and safer for those individuals who do not feel secure high up on ladders. Secure the plywood in place, snug against the inside window with clips or "L" brackets. Even if the exterior window breaks, the contents of your home are still protected from wind driven rain. Be sure to have enough water to flush toilets and wash hands.

Hurricane Watch-

A watch (tropical storm or hurricane) means that storm conditions are expected within 36 hours. Secure your property! Remove any outside potted plants, chairs, ladders, trash cans, boards, lawn ornaments, boats- anything that could be blown by the wind or pushed by rising water. Items such as these could break windows or damage pilings, thus compromising the structural integrity of your home or your neighbor's home, leading to greater property damage. Remove your boat or PWC from the area. Do not store your boat in your boat house- even with the plug removed, the boat could still float causing damage to your boat house and your home. Board up your windows. Taping your windows will NOT keep them from breaking. Secure any exterior and interior entrances to your home with plywood or some other means. Not only will this protect your home from the storm but it will also reduce the chance that looters might visit your house.

After securing your property and your home, leave the area. Be sure to take your important documents (insurance papers, birth certificates, passports, etc) and bring along cash or travellers checks. According to documents released by FEMA and the US Army Corps of Engineers, residents of the Omega Bay area should evacuate during a CAT 1 hurricane or greater. Our evacuation route is State Highway 6. The first "safe area" along highway 6 is Brazoria County. The cities of Alvin, Sugarland, Houston, and Pearland have numerous hotels and motels within their limits that are away from creeks and streams. Be aware that these areas have been known to flood during periods of heavy rainfall. Be sure to book a room BEFORE you hit the road! Keep your vehicle's fuel tank full. When it drops to half a tank, fill it up. Remember, gasoline pumps will not work without electricity. Have the fuel you need before you need it! Do NOT store gasoline in your car or trunk.

Hurricane Warning-

A warning means that storm conditions are expected within 24 hours (or less). All preparations should have been completed. Reservations should have been confirmed for your stay in another area. You should be on your way to a safer location.

After a Storm-

Since the county judge or mayor can call for a mandatory evacuation for a period of up to seven days without the approval of "governing body of the political subdivision", be prepared to stay out of the area for at least one week. Once the order has been lifted, you may begin to make your way back into the area. Be aware of displaced animals and wildlife. Fire-ants and snakes will be a problem as will mosquitoes. Debris will pose another problem. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes and wear thick gloves. Be careful handling boards as many nails might be hidden from view. Tetanus shots are only good for ten years. Sewage along with rotting waste will also be a concern. Do not dispose of any food items or human waste into the canals. Wash your face and hands with clean water on a regular basis. Secure your property the best you can. As you begin to rebuild following a storm be sure to keep all receipts. Some expenses may be reimbursed by insurance and other expenses may be deductible from income taxes if you claim a loss. Do a room by room walk through and list each item in each area that was damaged. Be sure to include the year acquired and cost if you can. The more information you provide the more accurate your claim will be. Use IRS publication 584 and its worksheet to document your damage.