Texas ready for Hurricane Laura, but Abbott warns of overnight rescue gap
AUSTIN, Texas - Tropical-storm-force winds are expected to start slamming into the Southeast Texas coastline Wednesday evening.
As property owners finished putting up boards and leaving messages of defiance, some still refused to leave.
"We are going to ride it out, we are going to board up all the windows, got a generator, stuff, we've got the emergency kit ready to go, so we are going to ride it out,” said a Seabrook resident named Salvador.
RELATED: "Extremely dangerous" Hurricane Laura keeps strengthening with winds at 150 mph
In an effort to encourage evacuations, the National Weather Service released a map predicting a wide storm surge with two to four feet at Freeport, rising up to almost 10 feet at the Bolivar Peninsula and then to 15 to 20 feet around the Texas-Lousiana border.
During a briefing, Gov. Greg Abbott was told the main part of the surge would be unsurvivable. Why someone would stay had him perplexed. "Maybe the people in those areas are not fully aware about the severe danger the people are facing,” he said.
Gov. Abbott says rescue teams are staged to quickly respond to calls for help, with an initial deployment including 400 buses, 38 aircraft, 82 boats, 202 high profile vehicles, and 60 ambulances, with an additional 75 para-transit vehicles.
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Abbott warned though that there will be a gap in emergency response. "It's important for people to know, from about 7 pm tonight until 9 am in the morning it will be a little bit of a lockdown time period for the ability of rescuers and aiders to get in and provide support for anybody in those local regions,” he said.
While people are being encouraged to get out, a strategy to expand roadway capacity, called contraflow, is not being done. Chief Nim Kidd, the head of the Texas Division of Emergency Management explained the decision was based on timing.
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"ContraFlow takes about 42 hours to set up, remember we think about the logistic that go in to shutting down lanes, getting people off of roads, reversing traffic, setting up law enforcement and TXDOT at every location. so the window for ContraFlow has closed, we are too close to the storm for that,” said Chief Kidd.
To help stranded evacuees who have run out of gas, a fleet of TxDOT refueling trucks have been deployed.
"Our local providers have done a great job of making sure the supply chain is open, those involved in providing fuel have done a good job, of maintaining supply chains, so right now, the supply chains are looking pretty good,” said Abbott in response to questions about Hurricane Laura impacting the availability of fuel and grocery items across the state.
Those who evacuate are encouraged to self-monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms, and if large evacuation centers are opened, the state will provide testing for those who stay in them.