With the probability of extensive rain and high winds throughout much of the state from the resurgence of Hurricane Harvey, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts are asking Texans to take measures to prepare their houses, farms, and ranches for what could come.
“We’re expecting Harvey to bring a lot of rain and flooding over a large area of the state and as he intensifies, some strong winds as well,” said Andy Vestal, MEd, PhD, AgriLife Extension specialist in emergency management, in College Station. “The storm system may also spur tornadic activity.” Vestal said people in both urban and rural areas of the state should take steps to prepare for what could come from this storm system to minimize damage and reduce the impact of its aftermath.
He said the Texas Extension Disaster Education Network (Texas EDEN) at texashelp.tamu.edu has a variety of materials on disaster preparation and recovery.
Vestal said to avoid being trapped by a flood, it’s best to evacuate before flooding starts.
“Listen to the radio, TV, or NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio and follow directions from local officials regarding evacuation or seek high ground if you experience localized flooding in your area,” he said. “Be prepared to evacuate quickly. Know your routes and destinations and where there’s an emergency shelter. If you’re trapped by a flash flood, keep out of flooded areas and away from moving water, whether you’re on foot or in a vehicle. Always remember to turn around, don’t drown.”
Joyce Cavanagh, PhD, AgriLife Extension family development and resource management specialist, College Station, said one of the best things Texans can do to prepare for an emergency is map out a family evacuation plan ahead of time and practice it. The plan should include establishing escape routes and making sure to include all members of the household in a practice session.
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“People should also have an emergency kit for their home, office and each vehicle,” Cavanagh said. “The kit should contain enough supplies to take care of immediate family members for at least three days.”
She said some essential kit contents include bottled water, nonperishable foods, a hand-operated can opener, mouth/nose protection masks, extra clothing, a first-aid kit, gloves, blankets, toiletries, battery- or hand-powered flashlight, weather radio, spare batteries, garbage bags, medications, and anti-bacterial cleaners or wipes.
AgriLife Extension specialist David Smith had some additional suggestions for farmers and ranchers on how to prepare horses and livestock for a flood or other natural disaster.
“Emergency preparedness is important for all animals, but especially for livestock because of their size, feed requirement, and shelter and transportation needs,” Smith said. “Farmers and ranchers should assess the risk of flooding in their area and devise an emergency plan to protect their livestock.
“The plan should include contact information for people and resources you may need, such as numbers for neighbors and veterinarians as well as for your area poison control center, animal shelters, animal transportation resources and feedstock providers. It should also include contingencies for food and water for livestock if resources become contaminated.”
Smith said all livestock should have visible identification numbers, such as fire or freeze brands, numbered ear tags, or, owner contact information attached to halters or limbs or painted on their bodies, even if there’s no plan to remove them from the property.
“Floods often drive livestock to seek shelter and they wind up lost or in a neighbor’s pasture,” he said. “Before a flood, move livestock to higher ground and deny access to flood-prone pastures, barns and other structures. Many livestock drown because they refuse to leave flooded shelters.”
He said farmers and ranchers also need to protect livestock from the threat of fire after a disaster.
“Remove all fuels from the vicinity of barns and turn off electrical power to barns, buildings, and other structures that accommodate livestock until the threat of flooding has subsided,” Smith said.
He said in case of high winds, farmers and ranchers should secure or remove anything that could become a projectile or cause serious injury or damage if moved, including trailers, propane tanks, boats, and feed troughs.
Vestal said to also watch the sky and tune in to the radio or TV for information on possible tornadic activity.
“If there’s a tornado watch, move closer to a shelter or sturdy building so you can get there promptly if there’s a tornado warning,” he said. “If the warning occurs, take shelter immediately, preferably in a shelter that meets Federal Emergency Management Agency safety criteria. But if not, find a sturdy structure like a church, community center, school, nursing home or hospital.”
He said warning signs of a tornado include the appearance of a dark, sometimes greenish sky with dark, low-lying clouds and large hail stones. A funnel cloud may also appear, and there may be a loud roar like the sound of an approaching freight train.
Vestal suggested property owners remove any damaged or dead limbs from trees, secure trash cans and take any lawn furniture, plant containers, toys or other items that could become projectiles and put them inside the garage or house prior to the storm.
“Remember, mobile homes, even if they’re tied down, aren’t safe during a tornado,” he said. “If there’s a more substantial structure nearby, it’s best to go there if it looks like a tornado may hit your area.”
He also noted mosquitoes often become a problem after a flood or rain event and carry the risk of mosquito-borne disease.
“You can reduce the possibility of mosquitoes breeding on or around your property by removing any items that may hold standing water, such as tires, buckets, planters, toys, kid’s pools, birdbaths and trash containers,” Vestal said. “You can also cover any water storage containers such as buckets, cisterns and rain barrels, so mosquitoes can’t get inside and lay eggs. And if you have a septic tank, repair any cracks or gaps in the system.”
He said a larvicide can be used to treat large water containers of nonpotable water that can’t be poured out.
“While we can’t keep natural disasters from occurring, there’s still a lot we can do to prepare for them and keep ourselves and our families safe during them and in their aftermath,” Vestal said.