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Hurricanes revisited during Preparedess Week

By Scott Harvey

– Area emergency management officials are among those participating in National Hurricane Preparedness Week, and for good reason.

Northeast Texas housed thousands of evacuees in 2008 as Hurricanes Gustav and Ike forced coastal residents inland. In Hunt County alone, some 250 evacuees sought shelter.

The County's Emergency Management Coordinator Richard Hill says if a similar situation were to arise again, a better job must be done of directing out-of-state evacuees where to go. He called these regional distribution facilities Hospitality Centers.

"Buses will first come in there; the people will be processed," Hill said. "So those of us in the local jurisdictions can say we can take special needs patients, we can take people with pets, or exactly what we can take and then be dispatched from there."

The closest Hospitality Center would be located in Mesquite.

Hill referenced the 2010 Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane Forecast, provided each year by researchers at Colorado State University. According to Hill, the outlook appears "above average."

"More named storms. More named storms actually striking landfall... from June 1 to November 1."

National Hurricane Preparedness Week runs May 23 - May 29.

Hill also paid tribute to the late Jack Colley, assistant director for the Texas Division of Emergency Management, who died May 16.

"We definitely have a void in the State of Texas in that we had a great statewide emergency management coordinator in Chief Colley."

Colley had been in the hospital after suffering a heart attack earlier this month. During his 12-plus years with the DPS, Colley was involved in the response and recovery to many of Texas' largest incidents, disasters and emergencies, including the Space Shuttle Columbia crash (2003), Hurricane Rita (2005) and Hurricane Ike (2008).

Colley received a bachelor's degree from East Texas State University, now Texas A&M University-Commerce.