Sabine Pass ISD employee rides out hurricane in his office

SABINE PASS, Texas (KTRK) -- When Hurricane Laura comes through the Texas-Louisiana border, Tom Butler will be hunkered down at Sabine Pass Independent School District, sitting alone in his office, waiting for the storm to pass.

The school, which is built 18-feet above sea level, survived Hurricane Rita in 2005. Then, Hurricane Ike and Gustav three years later. Now, when Hurricane Laura comes through, Butler said he's confident it'll survive this storm, too.

"We've pretty much got everything taken care of," said Butler, who admits staying at his home, which is about 15-feet above sea level, wouldn't be nearly as safe as staying at the school. "I've got a school bus with me, an old school bus, if I just have to go."

Sabine Pass, a coastal town with just a few thousand people, is set to be hit hard by Hurricane Laura when it likely makes landfall late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.

Catastrophic storm surge, extreme winds and flash flooding are expected along the northwest Gulf coast Wednesday night.

If he leaves, Butler, head of the district's maintenance, said no one will be around to make sure the school is okay, and that could cause more long-term damage.

"You've got to get electricity back in these buildings because you have to have air. If you don't, we experienced this with Rita. We lost gas, natural gas with Rita," Butler said. "We grew mold in the building. It was like a $2 million restoration, so I'm staying here to make sure that doesn't happen again."

Although Butler said he's staying behind, his advice to others within the storm's path is to leave.

Many residents in the small town near Port Arthur packed their cars and left Wednesday morning, including Sabine Pass ISD superintendent Kristi Heid.

"We've seen the devastation that hurricanes can bring," said Heid, who has lost her home to storms more than once. "We built up so we expect our house to be here when we get back and probably a lot of debris that the ocean spits out back at us."

Heid said she'll return to town as soon as she can to make sure everything is okay, but in the meantime, she'll just continue to hope the buildings will still be standing and the residents will be safe.

"This has been a very uncertain forecast," Heid told ABC13's Ted Oberg as she sat in her car Wednesday morning with the door cracked open. "I wish that we got out of the cone, but we never did, so we just got to go."

When the storm hits, Butler said he expects to experience strong wind and water, but he's hopeful the building will be able to withhold the damage just like it did when he weathered out the storm during Hurricane Gustav in 2008.

"Everybody makes their own decisions," Butler said. "I will tell you this, staying in my house would not be an option."

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