If Victoria experienced another Hurricane Harvey, the city could lose water service again.

Despite this, Public Works Director Donald Reese thinks the city is in a better position than it was when Harvey hit about two years ago.

That’s because, first of all, there is now a generator where the city’s water is drawn from the Guadalupe River.

Secondly, the road to refill that generator is also easier to drive on in the rain since it was widened and changed from gravel to limestone.

Thirdly, if there were a power outage at the surface water treatment plant on North Bluff Road, the city could push water from the ground to water pumping plant No. 3 at the intersection of Airline Road and Ben Jordan Street.

And finally, the city communicates better with Ashbritt, a company the city has rented generators from since before Harvey, and now has the option to rent even larger generators, Reese said.

The city lacks permanent generators that will kick on automatically if power is lost at the surface water treatment plant, water pumping plant No. 3 and the wastewater treatment plant, the latter of which is located 923 U.S. 77 South.

In March, the city council approved buying a 1,259-kilowatt diesel generator for the surface water treatment plant.

Reese said he expects it to be installed by Aug. 31.

The city hasn’t received a quote on the other two generators, let alone ordered them, because the city has not found the funds to do so.

Water pumping plant No. 3 serves about 70 percent of Victoria while if the wastewater treatment plant goes without power for too long, it could be forced to release untreated wastewater into the Guadalupe River, Reese said.

Meanwhile, disagreement remains about whether Victoria’s water towers should be valved off during a hurricane. New Mayor Rawley McCoy thinks they should be valved off, while Reese said that’s not currently the city’s policy.

The public works department isn’t the only department fielding questions about preparedness as the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season kicks off.

McCoy is waiting for Emergency Management Coordinator Richard McBrayer to take him through required training while American Electric Power, the American Red Cross and the Golden Crescent Regional Planning Commission report varying degrees of readiness.

AEP Spokeswoman Vee Strauss said when linemen restored power after Harvey, they put up poles with diameters between 12 and 14 inches that can withstand 130 mph winds.

Debbie Ellsworth, who works for the American Red Cross, which was criticized after Harvey, said the nonprofit has recruited more volunteers in Victoria and the surrounding counties to man shelters. But she did not know how many volunteers there are offhand.

The Golden Crescent Regional Planning Commission, which had its buses ruined in a fire several months after Harvey, said its fleet was made whole in February and it’s ready and able to assist evacuating the elderly or people with disabilities.

The Golden Crescent could pick up 261 people in Victoria County on the State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry if an evacuation were called. More than 1,000 people were registered in 2016. McBrayer said his staff’s latest attempt to raise awareness of the registry was to insert a flyer about it in the utility bills of some 20,000 households this month.

Meteorologists predict between four to eight hurricanes will develop in the Atlantic Ocean between now and Nov. 30. Two to four of those could be hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or higher. Harvey had winds ranging from 88 to 110 mph in Victoria County.

McCoy said he was at home when Harvey hit and fortunate enough to have a generator and drinking water. He said he’s coming into his new role at the city knowing that not everyone is as fortunate as he.

“That should be the baseline of everything we do in hurricane or disaster response,” McCoy said.

Jessica Priest reports on the environment and Calhoun County for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at jpriest@vicad.com or 361-580-6521.

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Environment/Investigations Reporter

Jessica Priest has done a little bit of everything since moving to Victoria in 2012. She was a regular fixture in the Crossroads’ historic courthouses, but now slathers on the sunscreen to report on the environment.

(1) comment

Lisa Griffin

Why don't we put our powerlines underground so they aren't vulnerable to hurricane?

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