Two years ago this date, we were preparing for Hurricane Harvey to come ashore. We didn’t know where it would hit or how badly it would destroy our homes, businesses, communities and lives.
We feared the worst and prayed for the best.
Two years later, we as a community are still recovering.
Every day, more people are getting back into their homes that have been repaired or rebuilt. As of Thursday, the General Land Office had completed work on 100 homes in the Crossroads, with another 20 expected to be completed by Monday.
This is only a drop in the bucket for work done by volunteers, professionals and other assistance groups.
We still have a long way to go to fully recover from the Category 4 hurricane that destroyed so much of our lives.
Every year, we wonder if another hurricane of any force will hit. If it does, are we prepared?
With the Gulf Coast in prime hurricane season now through mid-to-late October, we watch the weather maps daily, looking at the tropics to see what, if anything, is developing.
We ask ourselves are we ready for another hurricane? Do we have a plan? Will we ride out the storm or evacuate?
Looking back two years, we can answer some of those questions with a simple no – we were not prepared for a hurricane. We look to the leaders of our cities and counties to be prepared and to learn from the last disaster to keep the communities safe.
Using the experience gained, we know we have taken some steps to be better prepared for the next hurricane or disaster.
That is a step in the right direction, but more generators are needed. We know generators are expensive, but if having them keeps the city with clean drinkable water, the expense is well worth it.
Long before Harvey hit, the city had contracted with a limb and debris removal company to work after a storm. That preplanning helped get the cleaning started as soon as it was safe without having to wait days or months for a company to be available.
The city and county must do a better job documenting damages to buildings and homes. Real boots-on-the-ground surveys must be done to determine the full extent of damage instead of relying on windshield surveys. The real numbers will help disaster workers as well as the city, county and other agencies know what areas need to the most help. It will also help the agencies get federal disaster money to make the needed repairs.
Two areas of preparedness that cannot be taken for granted are the emergency management office’s disaster plan and having volunteer groups organized and ready to go to work as soon as it is safe.
The emergency plan outlines what needs to be done, who is responsible for each duty and who leads the charge. The plan was not updated when Harvey struck causing unneeded confusion in a stressful time.
The plan has since been updated. Now, it needs to remain up to date so it is a useful working document.
Another lesson learned is to keep the media in the loop as things happen and information needs to be sent to the masses. The local media outlets are able to transmit important information through social media and websites in a matter of seconds, helping the city and the public.
Part of the plan that was needed but was missing was the nonprofit response team that should have been in place before the storm.
The nonprofits struggled at first trying to get established, but once they organized as the Victoria County Long-Term Recovery Organization, they have been going full speed.
The group’s work has been amazing in the avenues of assistance each has brought to the table and continues to provide. The grants and resources they have gained for county residents are phenomenal.
They have helped develop a subdivision in Bloomington to help with needed housing.
Thy continue to work with families who are still trying to return home.
Knowing it is a long-term process, the organization has purchased a warehouse to store supplies and equipment and has established an office for workers to assist families. They know their work will not go away tomorrow.
As we mark the second anniversary, let’s take time to remember the lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey so we are prepared when the next disaster hits.
And take a moment to remember the people who have been here and are still here helping the area return to a new normal.