8.4 Building Deep Relationships: How Trusted Partnerships Among South Texas Emergency Managers and the National Weather Service Prepared Communities Prior to Flooding in 2015

Thursday, 26 January 2017: 2:15 PM
615 (Washington State Convention Center )
Barry S. Goldsmith, NOAA/NWSFO, Brownsville, TX; and J. Metz and J. O'Valle

Handout (6.6 MB)

The calendar year 2015 brought numerous heavy rainfall events to South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley region along the Texas/Mexico border. Several of the events produced significant flooding in a variety of locations across the region.  These locations included the urban centers of Corpus Christi and Edinburg, rural farm communities, and unincorporated neighborhoods (also known as colonias) in five counties from a series of events from May to October.  Four counties - Hidalgo, Nueces, Jim Wells, and Duval - were included in the spring 2015 Federal Disaster Declaration following the May floods, and two counties - Hidalgo and Willacy - were included in the autumn Federal Disaster Declaration following the October 22-24 floods. Property losses and agricultural damage totaled over $250 million.

Emergency Management (EM) officials prepared for these events by staging physical resources and deploying human resources, largely based on decision support from the National Weather Service (NWS) in Brownsville and Corpus Christi. The decision support included pre-event e-mail “blogs”, occasional webinars that were shared with more than a thousand users in nearly every emergency support function, and individual phone calls between office staff and first-line EM Coordinators.  This presentation will describe specific actions taken by decision makers across South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley to increase community readiness prior to the floods. These actions included staging search-and-rescue assets and identifying shelter locations in South Texas prior to the May floods, and clearing drainage canals of debris and staging rescue watercraft in the Rio Grande Valley prior to the October floods. The actions, based on effective communication of hazards, impacts, and response helped to ensure the safety of impacted populations once flooding began.

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