East Texans play significant role in preparing for hurricane season

By Donna McCollum - bio | email

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - East Texans once watched hurricanes with a casual interest. Now, an increased interest in hurricane weather has been generated by hurricanes Rita and Ike which came inland as far as Nacogdoches County. When a hurricane is headed this way, East Texans sit up and take notice in a variety of ways.

SFA's Columbia Regional Geospatial Center helps by providing deployment troops, technology and training. Beginning next week Columbia will train guard units, a practice to be enacted this year as ordered by the governor.

"We've been working for the past year with the Texas military forces on a wide area damage assessment program," explained P.R. Blackwell, director of the Columbia. "We're helping them develop the procedures and we're training the troops on how to do this."

High winds may be isolated to certain areas, but the state legislature knows now to look at hurricane damage as a statewide issue. New laws addressing the financial impact of high winds and downed electrical lines were passed this session. On a national level, President Obama is urging residents of hurricane-prone communities to take responsibility for their own safety and start planning now. Forecasters are predicting four to seven hurricanes this year, of which one to three are likely to be major storms.

Then there's the more personal stories of hurricane destruction captured so well by a Galveston High School film class in 'Ike: The Documentary.'  A Nacogdoches summer resident Bobby Weiss and his cousin, Aaron Weiss, former SFA students, mentored the teens, which made Bobby's Nacogdoches step father proud.

"They were on Good Morning America this morning and they're going to go out and do a number of film festivals," explained Buzz Dutton. "It's really become a big project. We're really proud of them. Local boy does good."

This summer a showing will occur in Nacogdoches. East Texans will receive another look at a kind of storm that used to be viewed only from a distance.

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