Resilience increasing one year after storm – Port Isabel-South Padre Press

Special to the PRESS

“All you heard was houses being shaken and everything outside being destroyed,” said Erika Olmos, a local resident who was caught in the thick of the storm. “Then you go outside and see the complete mess [the storm] left—car windows broken, trees fallen, houses picked up and moved.”

Each year, when temperatures warn that summer is approaching, hurricane season is also lurking just around the corner. As the community experienced a year ago, it is vitally important to be prepared for the worst that severe storms can unleash on the Laguna Madre area. Hurricane season officially spans June 1 through November 30, but it’s never too early to prepare.

According to the National Ocean Service (NOS), a federal agency whose priority is to increase the resilience of the coastal communities in the United States, a hurricane is a tropical cyclone which forms over tropical or subtropical waters such as ours. They generally affect a large geographic area. While last year’s storm that hit Laguna Heights was a narrow and brief tornado, some of the items needed to prepare for these extreme weather events are similar.

It is important to create a plan in case evacuation is needed. recommends setting something up with households tailored to each unique situation. Among the things to consider would be physical disabilities, availability of transportation, current school or work situations and specific dietary requirements. It is also important to communicate with neighbors to ensure they are also prepared.

Residents are urged to make sure they have all important documents prepared for quick pick up in waterproof pouches and have all electronic devices charged before the storm begins. Extra battery packs are also recommended to recharge devices when not near an electrical outlet or if the possibility of a blackout exists. Make sure to closely follow local reports and announcements and avoid flood waters.

If evacuation is not possible or required, preparing the home is especially critical. “Angi,” formerly known as “Angi’s List,” offers a few solutions for home protection across several price points. Moving outdoor furniture and movable plants inside will help reduce possible damage to the surrounding area. The installation of hurricane shutters and storm windows are highly recommended for protecting home windows but are costly. On the more economical side, hurricane fabric is a sturdy material that tightly covers the windows and deflects many oncoming projectiles. Of course, the tried-and-true plywood covering is a quick and more budget-friendly solution, though not meant to be permanent protection.

The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment, recommends storing any potentially dangerous materials in a way that will prevent spills. Some examples include harsh chemicals or cleaning supplies. It is also important to run any generators out of any enclosed locations to the home. Generators can cause deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Laguna Madre area has seen firsthand the damage that can happen due to these extreme weather events.

“Houses were destroyed, and some people got displaced—windows were broken and roofs got ripped off,” said Anadeli Zavaleta, a Laguna Heights resident who assisted in the cleanup. Some residents were not so lucky.

Most tragically, the one life lost in the storm was Robert Flores. The 41-year-old died from his injuries when his roof collapsed on him, leaving behind his family and six-month-old child.

No matter what route one takes with the upcoming season, there are some universal essentials. This includes things like water bottles, energy generators, rations, portable cookware, flashlights, and first aid kits. Many people store the emergency supplies in special waterproof black and yellow totes sold at home improvement stores. Having these items and a plan to shelter-in-place or evacuate can make or break the community during a season of uncertain weather.

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