SPI learns lessons and prepares for hurricane season

Meteorology expert Dr. William Gray hosted his annual National Tropical Weather Conference on South Padre Island.

The emeritus professor at the University of Colorado, predicts nine named storms during hurricane season - from June 1 to November.

He said forecasting storms in the Gulf of Mexico is more challenging because storms tend to stall there.

"We can have a very down season, and you could get something in the Gulf, comes right over South Texas, and does a lot of damage," Gray said. The Island was last hit by a hurricane in 2008, when category two hurricane Dolly made landfall.

"It kind of did more damage than what we had originally expected, Island Emergency Management Coordinator and Assistant Police Chief Javier Garza said.

If and when the next storm hits, Garza said one change they will implement, is that city responders will not rescue people who did not leave the Island, if winds reach 70 miles-per-hour.

"We had the 15-year-old kid that was blown-off the seventh floor of a building during (Dolly), and we (responded) to help him, Garza said.

Fortunately, he survived but that was probably one of the biggest lessons. We were putting too many lives in danger." One of the Island's staple hotels, Bahia Mar was torn apart by Dolly and had to completely be rebuilt.

Garza said it was one of the oldest hotels at that time, and now all new buildings are required to meet national building codes with strict wind and water resistance guidelines. Garza said the Island's natural resources will play a huge role in warding off water damage, should a hurricane cause major surge. "We encourage dune rebuilding, we're aggressive in that part of our beach re-nourishment part, we believe the dune line is probably one of our best and first defenses, Garza said.