It’s too early to know the total cost of Gustav’s evacuation to Orange County, the job is only half complete. One thing that didn’t cost the county, was lives. If there had been a direct hit, our citizens were safe through the efforts of local officials and volunteers.

“Every Emergency Management Agency in the county, all first responders in the county, the industry community  and the business community, all stepped up to the plate,” said Jeff Kelly, Orange County Emergency Management Co-ordinator. Kelly was very pleased with the co-operation of everyone’s efforts. Members from every county office and different jurisdictions could be seen in the command center.

He praised all the CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) volunteers. 

“I can’t say enough about SBC letting us use this facility and the Malloy Center has been a godsend,” said Kelly.

He commented the evacuation went fairly well, except for the problems at the airport and the resources being diverted elsewhere. “I’m not sure who made that decision, if it was at the state level or above,” he said.

Thursday may be the last day the command post is open, it depends on when they get all the special needs evacuees returned home.

“Special needs is our main focus,” said Jill Frillou of the Orange County Public Information Office. “Getting them back and getting them here safe.”

Preparations are in effect, it takes a lot of planning. Transportation and personnel has to be lined up, along with fuel. Medical needs of the people have to be re-evaluated before they leave the shelters, some need medical assistance on the way back. If everything goes as planned the busses start rolling to bring the people back Wednesday morning. Officials hope to have everyone back by Thursday.

Totals of 211 evacuees for Orange County were 39 by air, 20 by ambulance and over 1,200 by bus.

Officials do not have estimates of those that self evacuated, but from traffic on the streets, the percentage was high. “When Wal Mart closed, I think they all left,” said Frillou jokingly. She did receive one phone call from a woman asking if they knew the store was closed.

It has been reported from the state Mass Care and Shelter Operation that 280,000 Texans left the Gulf coast with 10,000 special needs, more than they expected. Many had not registered with 211 until the evacuation was called.

The only figure the county had at press time was $130,000 for food and personnel. Friday through Monday 189 had been fed and housed at the command center with 80+ more expected through Wednesday. More figures should be available later in the week.

According to Marlene and Robert Merritt, the final cost per meal will be low as they are already under $3.00 and have at least until Wednesday to prepare food with supplies already purchased. Meals will be provided as long as the command center is open.

There are four more named storms at press time, Hanna, Ike, Josephine and Karina. It is too early to know if any will pose a threat, but Jeff Kelly and local officials will keep a watchful eye.

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.