LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - While storms popping up in the Atlantic are the last things on the minds of those that live in East Texas, it is priority number one for the Angelina County Office of Emergency Management as the calendar creeps closer to the start of hurricane season.
It's been 12 years since Hurricane Rita and nine years since Ike hit the Pineywoods. Those that lived here at the time and worked on emergency management saw how disruptive a storm can be.
"It was a wake up call for all of us in East Texas that we can be affected by something like that," said Diboll Police Chief Steve Baker.
"I was with Zavalla then, and a lot of issues we had back then on 69 was with traffic backups and things that happened because of that," Huntington Police Chief Bobby Epperly said.
Emergency Management Coordinator Ricky Conner said the county learned a lot in the days that followed.
"No one was prepared the first time," Conner said. "During Rita, it was a nightmare for a lot of people. from law enforcement to the communities"
In the years that have followed, state efforts have been made to share resources and locally, Conner has been pushing the effort hard with scheduled county-wide meetings, emergency drills, and training simulations. While many people will focus on the region's two large economic centers in Lufkin and Nacogdoches, the small outlying communities are just as important in the planning process.
"I think it cuts down on the confusion and issues like that when the time comes," Epperly said.
The things discussed at this meeting will be taken back by the leaders and dispersed to the residents.
"It helps us to get everyone on the same page," Baker said. "What we are going to try to do now is trying to get the public more aware, the citizens of Diboll more aware with getting ready for stuff."
Planning that includes traffic flow, gas supplies, power outages, law enforcement services, and state emergency services provided to the elderly through statewide resources.
"During the event, it is hard to get someone that is involved because you got so many people going so many different ways," Conner said.
The leaders will continue discussions through email and in June will participate in a state wide simulation that uses data to create computer scenarios for a fake storm known as Hurricane Charlie.