Nacogdoches and Red Cross prepare for hurricane season

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Hurricane season starts June 1st. The expert says it will be an above active one.

"Whether we're forecasting a below active year or an above average year we always need to be prepared," advised Brad Hlozek, KTRE Chief Meteorologist. "It's as simple as that."

Which is why the American Red Cross gathered emergency personnel and volunteers so they could start thinking ahead.

"It's not just the Red Cross," said Glenna Harkness, Red Cross director. "It takes the police department, the fire department, the emergency management, the mental health experts. It takes the entire community. Nothing is more important than the churches."

They come with experience. "We definitely learned from Rita," said Nacogdoches animal shelter's Jamie Shelton, as she explained animal control efforts during a disaster.

They also learned from Katrina and Ike and several other major hurricanes when thousands of evacuees and local needs were served.

Lessons included needing a larger evacuee shelter. Construction on one begins soon. "Tentatively groundbreaking is planned for June 16," said Jim Elder, a Nacogdoches County commissioner planning the multi-million dollar project.

Mandates to what's now become a familiar system often occur. Special needs shelters are going away. American Disabilities Act laws require all people to be housed in a general shelter, except under extreme medical situations.

"Operationalizing that just takes a little more effort," warned David Leary, with the Texas State Health Services Tyler office.

The challenge will be met through preparation and with the help of more volunteers.

"At any given time, half of our volunteers aren't going to be available, so you need a huge base of volunteers," said Red Cross volunteer Bobbie Ann Anderson.

The advice is before volunteering to be sure and take care of your own needs. You can begin by preparing an emergency kit for your home and car. Before you know it, stormy weather will arrive.

A similar meeting will be held in Lufkin on Thursday.

©2011 KTRE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.