Refugio, Jackson counties race to react

Amber Aldaco By Amber Aldaco

Aug. 24, 2017 at 9:06 p.m.
Updated Aug. 24, 2017 at 9:14 p.m.

   contributed photo by national hurricane center for The Victoria Advocate

As Hurricane Harvey intensified at a surprising pace Thursday, Crossroads county judges adjusted their orders.

Refugio County Judge Robert Blaschke ordered an immediate mandatory evacuation about noon.

Emergency Management and Safety Coordinator Stan Upton said the decision to evacuate the county was made after forecasts showed Hurricane Harvey strengthening into a Category 3 hurricane once it made landfall.

The last time Refugio County issued a mandatory evacuation was in 2008 when Hurricane Ike was forecast to hit the Crossroads, but turned away before making landfall.

"This is actually a hurricane this time, and it's heading our way," Upton said. "We hope people will take heed and leave the area."

Typically, Upton said, they'd send residents up to Seguin. But with the quick intensifying nature of Hurricane Harvey - which became a Hurricane Thursday morning and was quickly forecasted to become a Category 3 hurricane - the county did not have enough time to set up a plan. The county issued the evacuation early Thursday afternoon in order to give residents about 24 hours to evacuate. The idea is for residents to get as far away from the coast as possible.

"Normally, we'd have a place to set up and register everybody but ... that ain't gonna happen this time. It hit us too fast," Upton said.

No shelters are available in Refugio County, he added.

Jackson County issued a voluntary evacuation Thursday morning, but by 3 p.m., Judge Dennis Simons made it a mandatory evacuation.

Plans for a shelter for residents were canceled as well.

Lori McLennan, the deputy emergency management coordinator, said they are not broadcasting any type of destination for Jackson County residents or public transportation.

"We are just asking residents to get as far inland as possible," McLennan said. "Usually in this situation, I have a 72-hour window to call in state resources to get people out. But because of this time crunch, we don't."

DeWitt County has not issued any kind of evacuation, said emergency management coordinator Cyndi Smith. The area of concern is flooding. Smith said she strongly recommends DeWitt County residents to make preparations for flooding. Smith said much of DeWitt County is susceptible to flooding, and asked residents to sign up for CodeRED Notification System, a community notification system. Residents can get alerts from the system, Smith said.

Lavaca County did not issue evacuation for its residents. Lavaca County Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator Dirk Moore said county is expecting flooding more than anything else. Minor county roads that have low water crossings are more susceptible to flooding, he said.

Moore said he is following updates from the National Weather Service closely.

"We have all the county precincts on standby and TxDOT is on standby also. We'll be ready to respond if needed," Moore said.

Lavaca County officials are also sending out reverse 911 messages and are keeping social media pages up to date with any and all new information about Hurricane Harvey.

Moore advises residents to pay attention to road signs and not to drive into low-lying areas with water.

"People living in low-lying areas need to move to higher ground and protect their livestock and pets," Moore said.

There are no shelters in place in DeWitt or Lavaca County either.

For those experiencing their first hurricane or major storm, Refugio County Emergency Management Coordinator Stan Upton offered a small piece of advice.

"Be prudent, be careful and be safe," he said.


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