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Galveston County officials hope to make evacuating during storms more efficient for new residents

Following Hurricane Rita in 2005, new steps were taken to stagger evacuations across Southeast Texas.

GALVESTON COUNTY, Texas — If you've recently moved to the Texas coast, it's time to get ready for hurricane season.

Even if you're a veteran Gulf Coast resident from another state with hurricane experience, Southeast Texas offers unique challenges when it comes to dealing with storms.

Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said the county has seen a population boom over the last 15 years.

“From 2010 to current 2023, it's increased almost 70,000 people which is just under a 23% increase in population," Henry said.

This population boom makes getting to safety during a storm a challenge.

The biggest feature that sets Southeast Texas apart from other hurricane-prone areas is the population.

The Houston and Galveston Metropolitan areas account for the most densely populated area along the Gulf Coast. As a result, evacuating during a hurricane takes an extra level of preparation.

"We don't want to have another Rita where more fatalities occurred on the road during the evacuation than occurred from the storm," Henry said.

Following Hurricane Rita in 2005, new steps were taken to stagger evacuations across the area, to prevent routes from becoming overwhelmed.

"One of the lessons we did learn was that Galveston County being right here on the coast will be ordered to evacuate first," Henry said. "We're gonna give them 24 hours and then Harris County will make the same call for their coastal areas."

Unlike other areas along the Gulf Coast, with smaller populations that can evacuate at the last minute - Galveston County and other coastal spots will need to leave days in advance. This means having a plan in place of where to go and what to bring well before a storm strikes.

With limited evacuation routes that all lead through the third-most populous county in the United States, leaving early for a storm is the equivalent of leaving for a road trip at 4 a.m. versus the height of rush hour.

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