Q&A with Stan Upton: Refugio County Emergency Management Coordinator
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REFUGIO - Stan Upton, Refugio County's emergency management coordinator, has been through this drill before.
In his fourth year in Refugio, Upton recalls vividly watching as Ike bore down on the South Texas coast in 2008, but luckily for Refugio and the rest of the Crossroads veered toward Galveston and away from landfall here.
Ranging reporter Sonny Long sat down with Upton following Tuesday morning conference calls with the National Weather Service and the state of Texas Office of Emergency Management on the status of Hurricane Alex.
Q:With Hurricane Alex in the Gulf, what preparations are being made in Refugio County?
A: Right now, we are just monitoring. Preparations are ongoing. Right now, there is no need unless there is a dramatic shift. Any preparations or any decisions would have already been made starting yesterday. We are fortunate one more time and hope we stay that way.
Q: How important are these briefings from the National Weather Service and the state?
A: Extremely. The ones from the National Weather Service are probably the most critical because they give the most up to date information. They'll also throw in the variables which are enormous. At any time, any of that can change and move. When you deal with Mother Nature it's one thing.
Q:Who gets involved locally in these briefings and why is this important?
A: All my fire chiefs, county commissioners, the mayors, our superintendents of school districts - right now since school is out the burden on them is decreased considerably - our nursing homes, hospital staff. Law enforcement of course, the sheriff's office, local police, DPS.
Q:Why is it so vital to have law enforcement involved?
A: At any given time, the situation may alter and if they all of a sudden start evacuating Brownsville, we're going to get hit with a lot of folks. Not everybody will go up (U.S.) 37. (U.S.) Highway 77 is the main thoroughfare to Houston and Refugio is the halfway point.
Q:What should the public be doing at this point.
A: Monitoring. Paying attention. Being vigilant. Personal responsibility weighs heavily. We can make suggestions, but it's their personal responsibility to make decisions for their family. We're just lucky again it's going below us, it looks like at this point.
Q:This area has been fortunate, hasn't it?
A: It's been since 1970 that we've had a major impacted storm here. A tremendous amount of this population has never experienced a tropical storm or a Category 1 hurricane. There is a lot of complacency, and that's what kills a lot of folks. And that's the last thing we want.