Recovery

Extreme Weather Expo Draws Larger Crowd With Harvey Still Fresh on Houstonians' Minds

There is nothing on the radar — yet. But hurricane season has started, and memories of Harvey remain fresh.

by Katherine Blunt, Houston Chronicle / June 4, 2018

(TNS) - Ellie Wallace already is preparing for Houston’s next major storm.

There is nothing on the radar — yet. But hurricane season has started, and memories of Harvey remain fresh. Wallace already bought a cover to keep her generator dry, and she is stocking up on canned goods and pet food for when she and her family inevitably will need it.

“We’re starting now,” she said.

Wallace and thousands of other forward-thinking Houstonians gathered Saturday at the George R. Brown Convention Center for the Extreme Weather Ready Expo, an annual event aimed at educating the public about how to prepare for hurricanes and other disasters. It typically draws about 2,500 people, but this year, in the wake of Harvey, it attracted more than 4,000.

Jackie Miller, the city’s community preparedness programs manager, said attendance always spikes after major storms. Before Harvey, it was Ike, she said. The point is not just to prepare for the big ones, she added. It’s to have a plan in place for any weather hazard.

“We have more severe weather than just hurricanes,” she said.

Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett opened the event with remarks on the importance of knowing and preparing for the hazards that threaten the Gulf Coast region. Later, a panel of local leaders discussed lessons learned from Harvey.

The expo featured dozens of local disaster response agencies and nonprofits with tips on how to protect personal property, purchase insurance and develop comprehensive plans that involve the entire family. The Houston Museum of Natural Science brought its “discovery dome” to teach about storms and weather patterns.

A table at the front of the event was stacked with disaster preparedness guides that stressed the importance of determining escape routes, maintaining updated contact lists and making sure children know basic information such as their parents’ full names and phone numbers. Go-bags and emergency kits containing important documents, medications, tools, and sustanance are must-haves.

Kenneth Graham, the director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hurricane Center in Miami, traveled to Houston to encourage attendees to prepare for storm hazards — wind, rain, tornadoes and storm surges — even if their homes have been spared in the past. A wide range of variables affect how and where storms play out, he said, so homeowners should not look to past storms to determine their risk.

“They’re all completely different,” he said. “Just because it didn’t happen before doesn’t mean it can’t.”

Christy Simmons and her husband drove up from Manvel for the expo. Their home, just a half-hour drive from the coast, took on a small amount of water during Harvey.

“We’re always affected in some way,” she said.

She is planning to buy a water pump.

Cindy Nance attended the expo for the first time in several years. Her home near Meyerland did not flood during Harvey, but those nearby did, a reminder that readiness is key.

She said she plans to start preparing earlier this season. And this time, she won’t forget the pet supplies for her four cats, including one rescued during Harvey.

“You can’t be prepared enough,” she said.

Wallace, who works at an insurance agency, saw the extent of the damage inflicted by Harvey. At the expo, she picked up a big blue bag of preparedness guides and gear.

“I’m going to pass them out at work,” she said.

katherine.blunt@chron.com

twitter.com/katherineblunt

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