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Preparation is an important part of hurricane season

By BY ALLISON MILES - AMILES@VICAD.COM
Sept. 7, 2011 at 4:07 a.m.

Fay Strawn walks on the ground where her Ganado home stood before Hurricane Carla destroyed it in 1961. "Now, if I hear about a storm brewing, I load the car and get out of the way."

Fay Strawn walks on the ground where her Ganado home stood before Hurricane Carla destroyed it in 1961. "Now, if I hear about a storm brewing, I load the car and get out of the way."

As Hurricane Carla slammed the Crossroads 50 years ago, many residents fled to safety.

The Strawn family, who sought refuge in Lockhart, was among those evacuees.

"I knew something bad was happening," Fay Strawn said of the night her husband and children left Ganado. "That night, I couldn't sleep."

There was something to that gut instinct.

Carla's heavy winds shifted the family's Mizell Street home so its underlying gas lines broke, she said. The home filled with flammable gas and, eventually, exploded.

"The firemen who saw it said it was just a ball of fire," she said. "You never really think anything's going to happen to you. Not like that."

The loss came decades ago, but hurricane season comes every year, and it pays to be prepared.

Storm season hits its peak Sept. 10 and 2011 has been an active year, said John Metz, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Fourteen named storms had already been reported by Wednesday. The average is two.

"The season really hasn't even gotten started yet," he said, urging people to make evacuation plans. "You cannot let your guard down."

There are ways to fortify the home against damage, said Amelia Taurel Folkes, a State Farm community and media relations specialist.

Purchase brackets for the garage door, she suggested, and install dead bolt locks with 3-inch screws. Change exterior doors so they open out, rather than in, she said, noting it protects against heavy winds and burglary.

Insurance is also important, she said, and a lull during storm season is the perfect time for homeowners to make sure they have enough coverage, and the right kind.

"A call to the insurance agent is free," she said. "Ask questions. Go over scenarios. That's what they're there for."

When it comes to purchasing insurance, certain boundaries apply, said Mark Hanna, public relations manager with the Insurance Council of Texas.

Flood insurance takes 30 days to take effect, while windstorm insurance is effective immediately. If a storm has already entered the Gulf, however, a person can not purchase the windstorm variety.

Hanna encouraged people to take pictures and video to document their belongings, which helps in the storm's aftermath.

Strawn, whose home was underinsured, echoed Hanna and Folkes, encouraging homeowners to not only speak with an agent, but to make sure they understand their policy.

"We lost so much," she said, citing everyday items and keepsakes such as high school diplomas and her marriage license. "When you come home to nothing, it's awful."

Strawn, now 86, never could bring herself to see the home in the storm's aftermath. Instead, her husband, Olsie Strawn, took cleanup efforts into his own hands.

In the meantime, a family friend offered a garage apartment, others offered items and support and the small family gradually rebuilt their lives.

The situation might have been difficult, but things happen, Strawn said.

"There's a reason," she said. "I think everything's under a plan."


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