Dave Rogers

For The Record

 

Hurricane season begins Saturday, June 1, for the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts and the experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are predicting the 2019 season will be “near-normal.”

Recent normal in Southeast Texas means being hit by three – or four – major hurricanes in the past 14 years.

“You never want to let your guard down,” Joel Ardoin, Orange County emergency management coordinator, said.

“It’s only a bad year if you get hit, and then it’s a really bad year.”

Orange County is still seeking FEMA payments from 2008 and Hurricane Ike while not through rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

The run started with Hurricane Rita in 2005, the first hard hit since Hurricane Alicia in 1983, and the streak also included Hurricane Humberto in 2007.

“After four hurricanes, you don’t take nothing for granted,” County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said after Tuesday’s meeting of Orange County Commissioners’ Court.

“With the weird weather we’ve been having, we don’t know what’s going to happen. Nobody does.”

In NOAA terminology, near-normal means a 30 percent chance of above-normal season and a 30 percent chance for a below-normal season. Hurricane season runs through Nov. 30.

Hurricane scientists at Colorado State University predicted 2019 would have 13 named storms in the Atlantic Ocean, including five that would become hurricanes. Of these, they expect two to become major hurricanes that reach Category 3 or higher.

Ardoin said the county’s emergency management department would post hurricane preparedness information, including evacuation plans.

“We really want people to register for STAN, the Southeast Texas Alerting Network,” Ardoin said.

In business conducted during Tuesday afternoon’s commissioners’ meeting, the decision was made to add $16,000 to the county’s flood insurance bill to renew coverage for the Sheriff’s substation and WIC office, both in Vidor.

Both buildings were deemed total losses by the county after Hurricane Harvey and plans have been made to relocate the new buildings.

But, Thibodeaux said, FEMA still hasn’t paid a claim on the buildings and says it will only pay if the structures have current insurance.

“Having insurance at the time of the claim means nothing,” the judge said. “At least we should get back some of it [$16,000] when FEMA is closed out.”

With those two ghost-buildings included, the county wrote a check for $132,000 to pay for flood insurance on its 30-something buildings.

That check was part of a total weekly operations tab of $345,000 paid out by the commissioners Tuesday.

Commissioners also set new operating hours for the Veterans Service Office. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, beginning Monday, June 3, Thibodeaux said.