HARRIS COUNTY, Texas- Emergency officials and crews spent Wednesday bracing themselves for a long weekend as Harvey makes its way toward the Texas coast.
Elected officials and department heads from the City of Houston and Harris County have been in constant communication with the National Weather Service and each other throughout the day.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said Wednesday afternoon that the good news so far is that the storm should make landfall sometimes Friday night or early Saturday, meaning fewer drivers on the roads during the weekend.
However, Emmett says nearly every model shows the storm heading straight for the Texas Coast then making a beeline straight for Houston.
“What I would tell people very openly: even if you haven’t experienced flooding in the past, the nature of living on the Gulf Coast in a low-lying area like we are overall, the creeks could come out their banks and the ground could become saturated,” said Emmett. “So, we’re definitely gonna have street flooding in some areas, and we just we hope like heck it doesn’t get into anybody’s homes.”
By Friday, staffing at Harris County’s Emergency Operations Center will ramp up. Officials are most worried about the rain, especially if it slows down and stalls out over the Houston region through the weekend, just as Tropical Storm Allison did in 2001.
Michael Walter with the City of Houston’s Office of Emergency Management says officials are expecting street flooding, but how they prepare for a tropical storm is different from the preparation for a normal heavy rain event.
“That wind can carry those barricades away, so we’re working with our Public Works Department to get those staged out within the community all throughout the city,” said Walter. “Maybe not right exactly at the place where they need to go, but somewhere whether they’re readily available for our first responders to gain access to.”
Walter is urging people to have a way to stay informed if high winds knock out power. He’s urging people to have an emergency kit with things like food, water, medicine, flashlights, and batteries.
Mayor Sylvester Turner gave the same advice Wednesday morning, while also urging people to avoid unnecessary trips during the weekend.
“I simply don’t want people unnecessarily to be caught on the road trying to travel on our streets in areas that we know are prone to flood,” said Turner. “You know it’s coming, so don’t make it more difficult for yourselves and for the first responders who have to be out there to rescue you.”
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