Cameron Co. Hosts Emergency Preparedness Meeting

An emergency preparedness meeting was held in Cameron County Monday afternoon as Tropical Storm Alex churned closer to the Rio Grande Valley in the Gulf. Some forecast maps put the possible hurricane just south of the Valley by Thursday. With less than 72 hours before a potential landfall, Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos said the meeting was called to build a unified response with local entities. "We have to come up with an evacuation plan... discuss shelters," he said. Judge Cascos said open communication with city and school district leaders from across the county will be crucial for rescue and recovery efforts. "Part of the them is to work together... evacuate together... train together," Cascos said. One of the main topics discussed at the meeting included lessons learned from Hurricane Dolly in 2008. "With Dolly we had major flooding on the west end of town, Cirilo Rodriguez, Harlingen TMs Assistant Fire Chief said. Hopefully those areas have already been rendered safe. Port Isabel's mayor said his city now has contracts in place with businesses to help expedite cleanup efforts. "We learned from Dolly... now we have contracts for debris removal...we're working closely with state agencies," Joe E Vega said. The lessons learned from the last hurricane enable agencies to better prepare, according to Judge Cascos. Santa Maria ISD plans to rent a back up generator for a possible shelter in their town. The district TMs superintendent admits they did not have one in place when Dolly hit. "It was a shelter... but not a very happy place," Dr. Wilma Smetter said. The county hopes to streamline operations between local, state and federal agencies. Judge Cascos said critical decisions, like a mandatory evacuation order, won't be made without help. This will not be unilateral. The county TMs emergency operation center is expected to be fully functioning by 8 a.m. on Tuesday.