Pandemic storm prep: What Houstonians need to know as Gulf systems approach

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Saturday, August 22, 2020
Houston mayor talks city's actions with Gulf storms looming
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While uncertainty remained Friday afternoon to the movements of two Gulf storms, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner explained the actions being taken in the event the city gets direct landfall while also keeping safe.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Local officials are warning Houstonians to get their hurricane preparedness kits ready now, as two potential tropical storms inch closer to the Gulf of Mexico.

"We've been through this before, we all know what to do," said Mayor Sylvester Turner. "These are gentle reminders as we are getting prepared. I think it's important for you to get prepared."

Meteorologists said the path and severity of Tropical Depression 14 and Tropical Depression Laura are still unclear, but Texans are likely to be impacted.

"We're smack dab in the middle," said Harris County Office of Emergency Management Francisco Sanchez. "That's a good reason to go out and get ready. Check your plans."

Right now, the Harris County Emergency Management readiness level is at a 3, one level above standard operations.

On the ground, the Harris County Toll Road Authority is in the process of clearing the drainage structures, testing all generators and warning its contractors of possible stormy weather.

The city of Houston's police and fire departments are also gearing up for severe weather. High profile rescue vehicles are being geared up, and should deploy early next week.

Turner said if need be, the George R. Brown convention center could be used as a shelter, but that is unlikely to get to that point.

This is the ideal weekend for Houstonians to start their own preparations. Here are some suggestions:

SEE ALSO: 2 simultaneous hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico have not happened, NOAA says

Get a coronavirus test before sheltering or evacuating with others

Houston's city-run coronavirus testing sites have increased capacity in recent weeks despite a decline in visits, Houston Emergency Medical Director Dr. David Persse said. He and Turner have been urging residents to utilize the test sites, which in July were reaching capacity daily and now see short wait times. Residents who may consider sheltering in place with those outside their household or evacuating to a friend's or a family member's household should plan to get tested beforehand, Turner said.

"It is critically important for us to get tested, and quite frankly it would be selfish of us not to," Turner said. "If you don't know your status ... you can potentially cause even greater problems."

Add new supplies to preparation kit

In addition to typical storm supplies such as water, batteries, flashlights and first aid kits, residents are encouraged to include extra masks, hand sanitizer and soap.

Seek hospitals for medical care, not shelter

Area hospitals already under increased strain caring for patients with coronavirus cannot act as temporary shelters, Persse said. He encourages those seeking medical attention to still visit hospitals but seek shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center. If necessary, the city will set up additional shelters in hotels and additional spaces throughout the city to limit contact between those seeking shelter. All shelter spaces will also be sanitized and reconfigured to promote distancing between evacuees, Turner said.

High-water rescues will still be performed

If needed, high-water rescues will be performed by the Houston Fire Department and Houston Police Department, officials said. First responders will be equipped with proper personal protective equipment to limit the potential spread of the coronavirus, Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña said. Residents with disabilities are encouraged to register with the Texas Department of Emergency Management's State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry. This allows first responders to plan for accessible rescue plans as needed.

For more information visit the Alert Houston website.

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