Jasper County remembers Hurricane Rita 10 years later

Jasper County remembers Hurricane Rita 10 years later

JASPER COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Hurricane Rita is often referred to as "the forgotten storm", but in Jasper County, it's an event they'll never forget.

"It's been a decade, but we all still remember, vividly, everything that happened," said Jasper County Judge Mark Allen. "And it is something that we don't want to relive."

"Hurricane Rita was the worst hurricane that Jasper County ever had," said Jasper County Emergency Manager Billy Ted Smith.
Hurricane Katrina had hit New Orleans three weeks before, and Jasper County was harboring those evacuees and short on supplies when they realized Rita was headed their way.

"Keep in mind; a lot of those resources were all in Southern Louisiana," Allen said. "Everyone was just strung out, figuring what we could do."

The county was evacuated, but Allen, who was the logistics chief for Jasper County Emergency Management at the time, stayed at the command center and waited out the storm.

"The roof was trembling and creaking and popping, kind of like a sardine can," Allen explained. "We just knew it was going to rip open, but it didn't, and our only contingency plan was if it did rip it open, we were going to get underneath the fire trucks and try to hold on to something."

The morning after was a shocking sight.

"It looked like a war zone. There was damage everywhere you looked," Smith said.

Homes and businesses were destroyed, and most of the county was without power for 32 days.

Allen estimated there was over $7 million worth of damage.

However, through all of the turmoil, Jasper County used Rita as a learning moment.

"We learned. We're no longer a pass-through county, we are an evacuation county now," Allen said. "We stress training preparation, planning among all of our personnel, and we stress it out in the community, too."

Should another hurricane pass through Jasper County, they'll be better prepared this time.

"We'll do what we have to do," Allen said. "We'll protect our people."

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