Less than a month before the new hurricane season, news today that Tyler will be taking a bigger role in response efforts. Officials at the National Hurricane Center expect a more active season than normal, however, it's still too early to predict where they will land. All week, the state has been practicing its Hurricane Preparedness Plan. Leaders in Tyler are working fast to put plans in action, ahead of the storms.
When Katrina and Rita hit last year, the city of Tyler did its best to shelter the thousands of evacuees that came into the city. It did such a good job, the state has now made Tyler a shelter hub.
"Last year there were five shelter hubs and one of them was the Lufkin, Nachodoches area and they were inundated," said Neal Franklin, Emergency Management Coordinator for city of Tyler. "It just needs to be more spread out, and I think that makes sense." City officials say the hurricanes taught both the state and Tyler a lot of lessons. One is the gas shortage that hit the state.
"TxDOT is working on that," said Franklin. "They are actually going to fill up the stations with fuel along the path, the evacuation path." Another lesson learned is the registration process.
"We'll have a reception center here, a registration center, which will work great," said Franklin. "We'll do a lot of the paper work and things, registration at one spot instead of each individual shelter." The Salvation Army says it's ready to house evacuees in it's community center. The American Red Cross has been busy preparing as well.
"Church groups and folks that are interested in working on disaster preparedness and sheltering and so forth, we are actively seeking new shelters at this time." said Tammy Prater, Executive Director of Smith County American Red Cross.
One other change, the Tyler Emergency Operation Center and Smith County EOC will no longer be housed in the same building because of space issues. The Tyler EOC has moved into the Tyler Police Department and Smith County is located at the 911 Center. Today, officials tested the communication between both centers and say everything is working fine.