May 27, 2006
Evacuation authority and other hurricane stuff

Some stuff from Thursday that got lost in the Enron verdict-a-rama:

Task force chief dismayed Perry lacks authority to order evacuations

The chairman of Gov. Rick Perry's hurricane task force said Tuesday that he was disappointed the Legislature did not grant the governor power to call for mandatory evacuations.

Giving Perry such power, Jack Little said, was one of the top priorities out of the two dozen recommendations made by the task force Perry convened after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The goal of the task force was to determine what went right during the storms, and what should be fixed in time for the coming hurricane season, which begins June 1.

"We just felt like it was important in this state for the governor to be given that authority," Little said.


The evacuation bill was withdrawn earlier this month, during the waning days of the special legislative session on school finance, by sponsor Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton. Bonnen later explained that he had been told by an aide to the governor that Perry wasn't going to add it to the Legislature's agenda.

Bonnen said the bill wasn't fully understood by some local officials, and that Perry wanted to avoid confusion.

If you weren't going to have this on the call for the special session from the beginning, then I think it was right to not try to shoehorn it in at the very end. I'm still skeptical about the need to give the Governor's office more power, but I'm willing to be convinced. I just don't think I could be convinced by a bill passed in haste, without some public hearings.

Speaking of hurricane stuff, there's now a plan in place to better handle shelter for folks who have to be evacuated out by state or local authorities.

Under a new statewide evacuation plan, shelters will be set aside for people who evacuate cities such as Galveston in buses provided by emergency officials, Nancy Bass, the state's mass care emergency coordinator said Wednesday during a Texas Hurricane Conference workshop on evacuation of "special needs" citizens.

Busloads of people from Galveston and Brazoria counties arrived at inland shelters in Huntsville and Katy during the Rita evacuation only to find that other evacuees already had overwhelmed the facilities. Many people on the Galveston bus, including children, elderly, those in wheelchairs and even some of their pets, wandered for hours in the night, finally being taken in by officials in Fairfield and Centerville, far beyond their expected destinations.

This year, evacuee groups organized by local emergency management officials will be sent to shelters reserved for such groups, Bass said. The facilities will not be among those publicized as available for the general public and evacuees who are making their own ways off the coast, Bass said.

Seems reasonable, as long as there's enough publicized facilities for everyone else.

Finally, Perry is touting his plan for better use of contraflow lanes, and SciGuy gives us the gloomy news that hurricane season is getting longer each year. So be prepared to keep those hatches battened down through at least December this time around.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 27, 2006 to Hurricane Katrina | TrackBack