Galveston officials prepare for hurricane season


This year will mark five years since Hurricane Ike. People in Galveston want to make sure they're ready when the next hurricane hits.

Galveston County's hurricane headquarters is operating exactly how officials hope it will if disaster strikes.

"We're practicing for something that could be actually occurring as we speak," said Emergency Management Coordinator David Popoff. "We're practicing for something we haven't done in five years. Five years ago was Hurricane Ike. When was the last time we practiced? Well, that was it."

More than 45 state, local, and federal agencies were in Galveston Wednesday for preparedness sessions, hoping not to repeat mistakes from Ike, when hundreds of people were stuck in harm's way, unable to evacuate.

"We learned a very hard lesson out in Port Bolivar," said Popoff. "Folks waited a day late and ended up getting stuck in storm surge."

That's why another group of officials spent the day at the Galveston Community Center, rehearsing a full-scale evacuation.

"We can evacuate up to 3,000 people or better," said Emergency Management Coordinator Charlie Kelly.

This year, county organizers are asking people to pre-register their name, address, and any special needs. Evacuees will meet at the community center, receive micro-chipped wristbands, and get on buses to pre-arranged shelters in Austin and San Antonio.

"People call and say I'm trying to get my aunt and she's not answering the phone," Kelly said. "I don't know whether she got off the island or not. We can verify that she did get on a bus in Galveston and she did get off the bus in Austin."

Galveston Safety Officer Deborah Baker said, "You have no cell phone, you have no water, you have no power. So I would say evacuate at the earliest time possible."

You can register for that evacuation program at any city or county agency in Galveston.

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