Blanco will host a major panel discussion of the 2008 hurricane season in Texas. The free meeting will be at 9:30 am Saturday at the Blanco United Methodist Church.
The meeting is sponsored by the Blanco County Disaster Response Group.
Although Blanco County escaped the devastation that Hurricanes Dolly and Ike visited upon the Rio Grande Valley and Southeast Texas, it was just a matter of luck. At one point, Ike was tracking straight for this county!
Our inland position doesn't make us safe from hurricanes, either. More people are killed in inland counties by flash flooding from the dying storms' torrential rains that are killed by wind and surge in the coastal counties. And we already know that flash flooding is a perennial threat here even without a tropical cyclone.
The heavy-hitter panel will include representatives of the major response agencies: the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Texas Governor's Division of Emergency Management (GDEM). the American Red Cross, and the San Antonio Volunteer Agency Active in Disasters (SA-VOAD).
They'll talk about how they responded to the storms that hit Texas this year, how well their responses worked, and things they learned that will improve their planning for next time. It is a maxim in disaster response that there are always new lessons learned, and there is always a next time.
For instance, there is the up-and-down public attitude toward evacuation orders. After Hurricane Katrina's example in 2005, many more people tried to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Rita than really needed to go. Many found themselves trapped in massive traffic jams.
This year, the passage of time, the memory of the traffic and the overconfidence about the storm's strength led many Galveston County residents to ignore warnings about Hurricane Ike, and dozens paid with their lives for their misjudgment.
On the other hand, those who did evacuate for Ike found sheltering worked more smoothly in Central Texas than it did for Katrina and Rita.
Closer to Blanco County's interests, small communities near Galveston and Houston found themselves left with little or no relief aid for days -- even weeks -- as resources flowed into the cities with their concentrations of victims (and television cameras). That's a natural phenomenon when disaster strikes both a major metro area and small suburban and rural communities. How can we keep that from happening to us? That's another one of those tough questions.
Your chance to ask the experts will come Saturday morning.