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Emergency Preparation

The distruction caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita reminded residents of Green Trails that we must be prepared.  Each of us should develop our own emergency plans.   Harris County has developed an excellent web site which deals with preparation for all types of disasters.  It may be found here.   Within that web site is a "Hurricane and Disaster Preparedness Guide," which may be downloaded and printed here
Green Trails is located far from the coast, on relatively high ground, west of Houston, Texas, in the western part of Harris County.  Because of its inland location, Green Trails will not be subject to hurricane related storm surge and wind-driven waves, which caused so much structural destruction along the Gulf Coast during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  However, Green Trails could experience the hurricane hazards of high winds, tornadoes, and flooding.
The most likely emergency Green Trails may face is a rain event which could cause flooding.  A rain event could be associated with a hurricane, a tropical storm, or just a confluence of meteorological circumstances. 
The web site (here) shows forecast  flooding in our area from rain events which statistically have a 1% chance of occurring in a given year (a 100 year flood), and a 0.2% chance of occurring in a given year ( a 500 year flood). 
This web site was developed jointly by FEMA and the Harris County Flood Control District as a result of the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Allison.  The flood control maps are interactive and searchable by street address.   An overview may be found here.  
As one can see, Green Trails is not predicted to suffer general flooding as a result of one of these statistically predicted rain events.  However, Green Trails streets are below the level of our homes.  The streets are designed to flood during an intense rain, and then drain off through the storm drain system following the rain.  Therefore, our streets may not be passable during an intense rain.  Similarly, parking your car in the street may subject it to flooding during an intense rain.
We should be aware that rain events much more severe than those predicted have occurred locally.  Parts of Harris County received about 36 inches of rain during Tropical Storm Allison.  During the 1980's, the city of Alvin, located between Houston and Galveston,  recorded 45 inches of rain in 24 hours.  Though rare, rain events as severe as either of these two, and centered over Green Trails, would cause flooding in our subdivision more extensive than shown on the flood maps.   For example, a computer generated map of flooding in our area as result of simulating the location of Tropical Storm Allison over the Barker Reservoir watershed may be found here.    An even more severe rain event, which fills Barker Reservoir to an elevation of 107 feet, may be found here.  Please note flooding in the eastern and southern portions of Green Trails subdivision, and the complete immersion of Fry Road south of the subdivision.
Harris County is very flat and subject to localized extreme rain events.  Localized heavy rain can overwhelm the storm drainage system.  Any property in Harris County can flood.  Everyone in Green Trails is urged to consider flood insurance, even though your home is not statistically predicted to flood.  You may find our more about flood insurance at an official site of the National Flood Insurance Program located here. 
You are also urged to make your personal emergency preparedness plans with the recognition that street flooding may be more widespread than shown on the statistically-based flood control maps.
The web site (here) provides real-time information on rainfall amounts and water levels at selected locations within Harris County.
Here is real-time stream flow rate and gage level data, maintained by the US Geodetic Survey. 
On the link here, the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has prepared three excellent videos showing the impact of a category five hurricane approaching from the most damaging direction.  The results are devastating for portions of Harris County, which do not include Green Trails.  Extensive areas in the southern and eastern parts of Harris County, and essentially all of Galveston County, will be flooded by hurricane-driven storm surge, and destroyed by wind-driven waves.  This devastated area even includes significant portions of Houston inside of  Loop 610.  The devastated area is densely populated by about 1.5 million people, whose only defense is to evacuate ahead of the hurricane.
Hurricane-spawned tornados are a threat all across Harris County, including Green Trails.   Wind damage as a direct result of a hurricane is also a threat in Green Trails, although less so than for communities closer to the coast.  Hurricane winds do lose strength as they cross over land, but it is still possible for wind speeds to be high enough to cause window, roof, and perhaps structural damage when the strongest part of the hurricane reaches our area.   Damage to trees and loss of power should be anticipated.
The National Hurricane Center has prepared inland wind estimates as a function of hurricane strength and hurricane forward speed, which give a rough idea of the wind speeds we may expect in our area.
The link here provides a software download from the Harris County Flood Control District.  This excellent software package includes an automatically updated hurricane tracking chart,  an evacuation map, hurricane / flood preparations checklists, and much more useful information for the preparation of our own individual emergency plans.  
The National Hurricane Center has an excellent web site here which can help us each develop plans to deal with the hurricane hazards of high winds, tornadoes, and flooding. 
The Tropical Prediction Center of the National Hurricane Center, located here, provides the official forecasts for active tropical storms and hurricanes.
In developing our own  plans, each of us must recognize that we will be impacted by events  in the southern and eastern parts of Harris County.  Evacuees from the areas predicted to be most severely impacted will clog major highways out of the county.  Necessary traffic control to speed evacuation from those areas may limit access from the areas within Harris County not predicted to be impacted as severely. 
Both extreme levels of traffic congestion and limited access to some highways occurred during evacuation for Hurricane Rita.   Governor Perry commissioned a Task Force to document the lessons learned from the Hurricane Rita evacuation.   The Task Force issued its report on February 14, 2006, which is located here.  
Hurricane Contraflow Evacuation Routes have been developed and may be downloaded here.    Overall Evacuation Routes and Zones in Southest Texas may be found here.   More detailed maps and other useful information may be downloaded from the State of Texas emergency web site located here.
Following the hurricane, Harris County resources will likely be diverted to the areas most severly damaged.   Return of evacuees to areas impacted by the storm may be restricted by authorities pending resumption of power and other services. 
Green Trails residents planning to evacuate ahead of an approaching hurricane, should recognize the traffic situation that will exist.   Houston real-time traffic conditions are available from Houston Transtar here.   Houston Transtar has useful information and links located here.
Statewide real-time highway conditions are presented graphically by the Texas Department of Transportation here, which also shows hurricane evacuation routes.  This graphical web site may be slow in a large scale event.  If so, you may want to use the faster, real-time, text-based site also maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation located here, or call the toll free number, 1-800-452-9292.
Individuals whose emergency plans contemplate remaining within Green Trails should recognize that flooding may be more extensive than predicted by the statistically-based flood control maps, tornados may be a threat, direct wind speed from the hurricane may cause damage, and Harris County resources may be marshalled in the southern and eastern parts of the county. 
Those residents who plan on using generators during the probable power loss following a hurricane should be aware that generators, gasoline cans, and gasoline supplies were quickly depleted prior to Hurricane Rita.  Such supplies must be obtained well in advance of the next hurricane.  Of course, generators must not be used in a confined space.  Several Houston area residents needlessly died of carbon monoxide poisoning from generators run indoors following Hurricane Rita.

Residents concerned about the integrity of their windows during a hurricane may consider putting plywood over their windows.  The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has prepared a design for effective plywood hurricane shutters, which may be found here.   Plywood supplies were quickly depleted prior to Hurricane Rita.   Therefore,  plywood shutters must be obtained, cut, and the fasteners attached considerably in advance of the next hurricane.