Texas Prepares As Threat Of Two Hurricanes Emerges During Pandemic
State and local officials are urging Texans to prepare for a major emergency as the potential for back-to-back hurricanes threatens the Gulf Coast and the coronavirus pandemic continues.
Ahead of the storms, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday declared a disaster and requested a federal emergency for 23 Texas counties.
The Texas Military Division is readying 860 personnel to respond if needed, the governor said. Along with helicopters, high-profile vehicles, and shelter teams, the state is also preparing disinfection teams and mobile coronavirus testing squads.
“As we are working to perhaps relocate temporarily some people that need to go to shelters, we must be very mindful of the ongoing need to protect against the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said, adding that state personnel would assist ensuring social distancing is possible at shelters.
The Texas Department of State Health Services has identified a facility in San Antonio and another one north of Houston that can be converted into medical shelters for COVID-19 patients, the governor said.
Forecasters expect Marco to hit the southeastern coast of Louisiana as a Category 1 hurricane Monday before heading towards Texas Tuesday evening as a tropical depression. A second system, Tropical Storm Laura, is on track to hit anywhere along the Southeast Texas or Louisiana coasts by Thursday morning, with water levels rising on Wednesday.
“For Laura, the forecast continues to shift pretty wildly, and that’s a little bit of a concern,” said Francisco Sanchez, emergency management coordinator for Harris County in an interview with Houston Public Media. “If we do find ourselves in the path of Laura, we expect to be having to get ready for a major hurricane.”
Impacts from Laura could be made more severe by Marco, Sanchez said, even if the region avoids a direct hit.
“We’re not concerned about the flooding from Marco, but if we then have a storm that comes in later this week and the grounds are already saturated, that could be problematic in terms of rain because it will have nowhere to go,” Sanchez said.
Local officials have continued to urge residents to check forecasts regularly, prepare a hurricane kit and have an evacuation plan ready.