By Brown Claybar
Mayor of Orange

Two “100-year storm” events within the past three years are enough to knock out most communities! We all were overwhelmed with the effects of Hurricane Rita and now Ike, with its devastating surge, is testing the resolve of our citizens. I am not going to use this column to recap the statistics and damage of this storm. The damage is well-documented and the personal stories, compelling.

A new phrase, “hurricane fatigue,” has been coined. With the memory of the horrid evacuation associated with Hurricane Rita, and then returning to see damage of Rita; then the subsequent rebuilding difficulties, we all have an awareness of the life-changing consequences of a coastal storm.

This year within a four-week period, we had a mandatory evacuation for Gustav, and then a hastily-called evacuation of Ike. Ike sent out conflicting messages as a huge Category 2 windstorm with a possible Category 4 storm surge.

Today we are dealing with the consequences of the storm surge and water damage associated with Ike. We have seen a historical flood and affected areas that have never been associated with flood risk.

I am very proud of the governmental response of the city of Orange and the other Orange County governmental entities. All the mayors and county officials have worked together as a team. There has been a spirit of cooperation and the emergency operations teams have been well-prepared and implemented the disaster recovery plans and processes which have saved lives and reduced the suffering of our citizens. Every one of us owes our emergency operations community a great deal of gratitude.

Hurricane Rita was known as the forgotten hurricane. It was forgotten by Washington and overshadowed by the highly-publicized Katrina. I am very pleased to report that our national and state elected officials have all toured the area and I have had face-to-face contact with them; and relayed to them the dire consequences of this storm. I have been assured by them that we will not be forgotten in the Legislative funding that will be necessary to financially recover.

 Unlike Rita, the timing of Ike was at the end of the Congressional session and as we speak, final passage of Ike funding should occur this week. This will mean an expedited flow of federal monies to our area that can be used for housing, infrastructure and individual assistance.

In closing, heroes are ordinary people who do extraordinary things. I have seen many heroes in our community. These people have sacrificed and jeopardized their own safety for the safety of others. I have seen grit and perseverance in our citizens who are determined to rebuild their homes and community. I have all the confidence in the world that Orange can and will rebuild to be a better and stronger community. We have so many economic strengths and natural resources and our citizens are determined to rebuild Orange and the surrounding communities to a higher standard. Together we can do it!