Texas prepares ahead of expected tropical weather

A high tide and rough surf rolled into Corpus Christi Bay Tuesday morning and that surge is expected to increase because of what the National Hurricane Center designated as "Potential Tropical Cyclone One". 

It's churning in the southern Gulf and tracking into Mexico, but tropical storm force winds could extend 290 miles from the center, pushing rain bands across the Coastal Bend and into parts of Texas. 

In anticipation, the state emergency management operations center was ramped up on Tuesday. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the activation of response resources and later Tuesday afternoon, at the governor’s direction, TDEM also activated additional state emergency response resources. They include:

  • Texas A&M Forest Service: 4 Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System Strike Teams comprised of 100 personnel and 24 vehicles
  • Texas National Guard: 3 Ground Transportation Platoons comprised of more than 40 personnel and 20 vehicles; CH47 Chinook helicopters

Additional deployments may include specialized chainsaw teams used after past storm events to clear downed trees from roads and power lines. 

With an increased risk for flooding ranging from Beaumont to just south of Austin, being weather ready includes residents. A sandbag distribution site was set up in Brownsville on Tuesday and authorities in Houston issued a safety advisory.

"Don’t go out in really adverse conditions unless you have no choice, that will help us immensely because if you don’t get in trouble, that’s one less person. We will be there for you, but we can then focus on other things,"  said Houston’s acting Police Chief Larry Satterwhite.

A new response location on the Costal Bend is also spinning up because of the storm. The Wildlife Response Operation Center, located in Corpus Christi at the Texas State Aquarium, was activated. CEO Jesse Gilbert spoke to FOX 7 Austin about the work there.

"This really will be the first, real event we've done with tropical weather. So, I’m, I'm interested to see how it comes together. So far, it's been pretty, pretty, smooth," said Gilbert.

The Wildlife-ROC is a staging and monitoring point for multiple federal, state, and local agencies. It’s attached to a specialized animal hospital, fortified to withstand a Cat 5 hurricane, and has its own power supply.

"What's nice is we can provide the agencies and some of the field response personnel from those agencies a very, very safe place to hunker down in while the storm is moving through. And then we can immediately start dispatching resources into the field and look at what that response and recovery looks like," said Gilbert. 

Over the next 48 hours, the WROC is expecting storm injuries mostly to birds.

"And then the other one that we're really concerned about would be the impact on sea turtles. Just because we're already seeing that this year with the elevated tides and winds. And so now that you see a higher tide, we're seeing data right now that suggest 2 to 3ft above mean tide, as well as these massive winds that come through and just build that energy up, not hurricane force, but they're still strong enough and sustained enough to impact sea turtles. They're an endangered species. And so, that's a critically important asset for us and in the area," said Gilbert. 

Dolphins and manatees that live along the Coastal Bend are expected to be able to ride out the storm waves. But if any are hurt, the center will be able to help with their recovery.

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