TxDOT shutting down through traffic on FM 819 to help traffic flow on US 59

TxDOT shutting down through traffic on FM 819 to help traffic flow on US 59
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: Laura Squiers
Source: Laura Squiers
Source: Laura Suiers
Source: Laura Suiers

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Businesses in Lufkin and city, county, and state agencies are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best as Hurricane Harvey approaches the Texas coast.

According to a press release from the Lufkin Police Department, city officials held meetings Friday afternoon to discuss possible Hurricane Harvey preparations.

"As of 3 p.m. Friday, the city had not received any requests for sheltering," the press release stated. "City officials will continue to monitor the situation into early next week and adjust their plans accordingly."

Steve Floyd, Lufkin's emergency management coordinator, said that he and other city and county emergency management officials have been sitting in on conference calls with state-level emergency management officials.

All of Lufkin's fire trucks and police patrol units are fully fueled and ready to go, Floyd said. He also said in addition to the firefighters and police officers already on duty, other firefighters and officers are on stand by, just in case they are needed.

In addition, the City of Lufkin has equipment like barricades on hand in the event they need to barricade streets because of flooding issues, Floyd said.

"I was on the phone with Red Cross earlier, and as of now, there are no plans to shelter any evacuees in Lufkin," Floyd said. "It sounds like we may not get a lot of rain until early next, so if we get any evacuees it'll be then."

Floyd said in the meantime, the City of Lufkin's various departments are on stand by. He said city officials are monitoring the weather and keeping in constant contact with state agencies and the National Weather Service.

"Lufkin is expected to see an increase in rainfall as Hurricane Harvey slowly treks across the state," the press release stated. "The heaviest rainfall and potential for flooding in the city is expected to be Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service."

David Thomas, the assistant chief of the Lufkin Police Department, asked citizens to be aware of the influx of motorists coming through the area with heavy traffic possible at times on major highways."

"The Police Department and the City of Lufkin are prepared for the worst but don't expect much more than rain," Thomas said.

Rhonda Oaks, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Transportation said that the traffic signal at the intersection of U.S. Highway 59 and FM 819 will be set at green on the South First Street/US 59 side to facilitate traffic flow of people driving north from the Houston area. She said access to US 59 will be closed until further notice.

To help residents prepare for Hurricane Harvey, the City of Lufkin is offering free sandbags at Grace Dunn Richardson Park today.

According to the City of Lufkin website, the free sandbags will be available through 5 p.m. today. You will be required to fill your own sand bags. 
People who need sandbags must provide some type of proof that they are Lufkin residents.

Numerous gas stations in Lufkin ran out of gas Friday, or they had long lines of people trying to fill their tanks before Hurricane Harvey makes his presence known. A Brookshire Brothers gas station on Timberland Drive had plastic over its pump handles at one point because the station ran out of gas. Later in the day, a tanker truck showed up to re-supply the station.

Sally Alvis, a spokeswoman for Brookshire Brothers, said that the Brookshire Brothers Express store located across from the Lufkin State-Supported Living Center on U.S. Highway 69 ran out of regular unleaded gas Friday afternoon. She added that it still had premium grade gas and diesel and that they expected a delivery of more regular unleaded later Friday.

Around 2:30 p.m. Friday, there was a line at each of the pumps at that Brookshire Brothers Express. People going into the store stocked up on items like bottled water or food.

At 3:58 p.m. Friday, KTRE viewer sent a Facebook message that the gas station at the Lufkin Walmart had out of gas.

Ricky Conner, Angelina County's emergency management coordinator , said he and other county officials were in a conference call with state-level emergency management people earlier Friday. He added, right now, they're just monitoring the situation to see what develops.

"We're not expecting a lot of wind, but we could get six to eight inches of rain," Conner said. "We may have some local flooding."

Conner said Lufkin is one of the cities on the shelter list, but it's pretty far down the list. He explained that the City of Lufkin has gone from having 27 available shelters when Hurricane Ike hit to just seven shelters.

"We're a pass-through city," Conner said. "Most people will choose to move on to other cities."

Starting today, Sam's Club will be waiving membership fees at select stores in Deep East Texas and the Houston area. The Sam's Club located at 407 N. Brentwood Drive in Lufkin will be among the stores waiving the membership fees. If you have a child attending Texas A&M University in College Station, that town's Sam's Club is on the list as well.

"In an effort to best support the communities it serves, Sam's Club is waiving its membership requirements for the communities in the path of hurricane Harvey and stocking its shelves with emergency necessities such as water, batteries and grocery basics," a press release from Sam's Club stated.

The press release also stated that as Hurricane Harvey gets closer, the store's hours will be determined by the management at each facility on a case by case basis.

On a related note, Walmart has activated its Emergency Operations Center, according to a press release.

"The Walmart EOC is in constant communication with stores and clubs and is accelerating deliveries of bottled water, ready-to-eat foods, flashlights, batteries, fuel containers, and other emergency items to throughout South Texas to help meet customer demand as residents stock up on essential items," a press release stated.

 The press release stated that the Walmart EOC is the company's centralized "platform for crisis coordination with store operations, logistics and several other teams dedicated to helping stores, clubs and customers during and after this storm."

In addition, the U.S. Forest Service has announced that it will be closing all campgrounds and trails in the Davy Crockett, Angelina, and Sabine national forests. A press release stated that the Sam Houston National Forest sites were closed earlier this week.

"With potentially high winds, possible tornadoes, and heavy rainfall, the forest is not a safe place to be," said Eddie Taylor, a supervisor with the U.S Forest Service. "Recreation areas and trails will remain closed until the storm has passed and our personnel have determined that the roads and public places are safe."

Taylor emphasized that national forest lands and campgrounds cannot serve as evacuation sites.

"We've witnessed the destruction of high winds and heavy rainfall in recent years, and it is better to err on the side of caution than to place even one person in jeopardy," Taylor said.

On a related note, The Nacogdoches Convention and Visitors Bureau is already reporting that hotels and motels in the town are starting to fill up as evacuees head north from the Houston area and Texas' coast.

As of 12:55 p.m. Friday, the American Red Cross had no plans to open its emergency shelters in Nacogdoches and Lufkin. Anthony Woods, a volunteer at the Red Cross office in Nacogdoches said that plans call for those shelters to be bypassed in favor of shelters located further inland.

"We're expecting to get hit hard here, too," Woods said. "We're bypassing evacuees to other shelters because we're trying to have resources available if people in the Lufkin-Nacogdoches area need shelter or help."

The number for the American Red Cross office located at 504 West Frank Avenue is (936) 564-2101.

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