Ike Update From TPWD: Game Wardens Search and Rescue, State Parks/Wildlife Staff Assess Damage
Below is information sent by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to the Governor's Press Office today. The governor's office is coordinating official communication about Ike for the State of Texas, including TPWD activities. The following information is provided as a service and convenience for TPWD's audience. For complete information, see the Texas governor's web site at http://governor.state.tx.us/, or news media may phone the press office at (512) 463-1826.
Texas Game Wardens/TPWD Law Enforcement Division
- TPWD has more than 180 game wardens and associated boats and equipment deployed in Southeast Texas.
- This morning, five game warden strike teams with airboats and riverboats fanned out across Southeast Texas for search and rescue and damage assessment. Teams are working today in Beaumont, Orange, Port Arthur, Bridge City, and Chambers County. It's anticipated that search and rescue duties will continue in Orange County for three-to-six days.
- Yesterday, Capt. Rod Ousley of the Beaumont office and eight game wardens worked in Bridge City and Orange with airboats. By 4 p.m. they had completed more than 50 rescues, plucking people from rooftops and second story windows, bringing them back to National Guard trucks.
- Six other strike teams of 10 game wardens each are on standby today, three at Lake Bob Sandlin in Northeast Texas, and three more teams at Camp Allen near Navasota, awaiting deployment instructions from the State Operations Center.
- In Galveston, about eight game wardens normally based in that area continue to help patrol and search residential areas, using boats to navigate flooded streets in some cases.
- Dozens of other wardens based out of Region 4 in Houston are likewise continuing to search, rescue and assess damage in the counties and city areas they normally patrol.
Texas State Parks
- More than 30 Texas State Parks remained closed due to Ike in Southeast and East Texas. For the current list of park closures, see the TPWD Web site (www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/parkinfo/hurricane).
- As of 5 p.m. yesterday, a total of 4,673 evacuees have been given shelter free of charge at 45 state parks outside the hurricane's path. Evacuees from storm-damaged areas are allowed to tent camp or stay in RVs or campers at no cost in Texas State Parks, and they may stay in cabins or screen shelters at discounted rates. The latest information on parks closed or accepting evacuees is available through the TPWD Web site (www.tpwd.state.tx.us/site/emergency). The public can also phone individual state parks to see whether a park is closed or accepting evacuees.
- More damage assessments for the State Park Division came in this morning, though the full picture is still incomplete. Southeast Texas state parks sustained the most damage, where seven parks have reported significant impacts. Stephen F. Austin and Brazos Bend sustained substantial losses of trees without damage to infrastructure. San Jacinto Battleground, Village Creek and Huntsville sustained wind damage to trees along with structural/infrastructure damage. No loss of life or injuries have been reported for the State Parks Division.
- In Northeast Texas, parks west of Tyler fared fairly well, although many reported trees down. Eastern parks like Martin Creek Lake, Caddo Lake, Daingerfield, and Atlanta sustained more damage. All of these are without electricity, with power lines down and poles broken, likely to remain closed for some time. Trees fell on some cabins and buildings at Martin Creek, though details are not known.
- The approximately 1,000-square foot headquarters building at Mission Tejas burned to the ground at around 10 a.m. this morning. No one was hurt. Staff on site phoned the local fire department, and they are looking into the cause. It is possible that an emergency generator being used to power the building caught on fire. A park employee sent e-mail at 8:45 a.m. saying "The generator sounds like it is about to go out so will check back in when I can." Numerous other state parks in East Texas are operating on emergency generators, but no other generator problems have been reported.
- Wildlife Division staff assisted with search and rescue in Jefferson County at the request of local officials, and other staff are assessing damage to facilities and habitats in affected areas.
- Several Southeast Texas wildlife management areas near the coast where the landscape normally consists of wetlands, marshes and coastal prairies are all or partly underwater today, including the Murphree, Candy Abshier, Lower Neches and Hurst WMAs.
- At Murphree WMA near Port Arthur, the Jefferson County storm levee held back the storm surge, protecting WMA buildings from flooding. The levee can resist a 14 foot crest and staff report the area had 11 feet of seawater surge. One Murphree shop building was severely damaged by high winds, but other facilities are reported in relatively good shape.
- At Hurst WMA near Lake Jackson, the main office and bunkhouse appear to be in relatively good condition, with no apparent damage to equipment. A barn had doors blown off or other damage. One lean-to structure with deer blinds inside was destroyed.
- Regarding ecological impacts, aerial overflights of the upper coast region are planned for Monday to assess damage to various TPWD division facilities and to natural resources. But longtime division staff member and Murphree WMA Superintendent Jim Sutherlin had this to say: "The Murphree area looks like the Gulf of Mexico. Wildlife impacts to every thing that doesn't fly will be significant like it was back in the early 1960s with Hurricane Carla. I expect a great reduction in reptiles and amphibians, particularly alligators, but also snakes, frogs, all the things that move on the ground in the coastal plains. We need to assess the full impacts, and that will take some time. It will set plant communities back to very early successional stages, and we'll see big changes in the landscape when this water comes off, for a couple of decades. That's something we'll see as our careers mature, and the young people starting careers in wildlife ecology now will follow it as we followed Carla."