At a media briefing held this morning at the Tyler Police Department by Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass, officials advised residents to avoid driving and to stay indoors as Hurricane Ike reaches Tyler and Smith County today.
It is anticipated that the Tyler area will receive up to four inches of rain for most of the day as well as winds of 45 mph sustained with gusts of up to 65 to 80 miles per hour. Residents should be cautious of flying debris as well as downed power lines, and low water crossing and storm drains.
Non-essential City offices will be closed today, including the Tyler Public Library and recreation programs. Emergency workers are on stand by to respond to storm related issues. Tyler's Technical Search and Rescue Team has been placed in a ready state to perform swift water rescue, high angle rescue, confined space rescue and trench rescues as needed. The City's portable ACU 1000 system, which bridges radio frequencies between agencies, has been readied in the event it is needed.
The Tyler Public Airport reports that all flights in and out of Tyler today have been cancelled. The Airport has completed its preparations for the storm; airplanes have been tied down and fuel has been secured for emergency conditions. The airport and airfield will be open for business and for emergency flights if necessary. The airfield will be monitored for any hazardous conditions as the hurricane passes through East Texas. Customers should contact the 800 number for their airlines to get information on flights.
Three additional small shelters were opened yesterday to host 138 more evacuees, bringing Tyler's total shelter count to 19 shelters and 3,410 evacuees. Backup generators have been requested for each of the shelter locations in the event of a power outage. The City has placed its largest mobile generator at the shelter on Troup Highway and a roof survey was completed on the building. MREs (self-heating meals ready to eat) have been staged in each shelter in the event power is unavailable for cooking and Oncor has been notified of all shelter locations.
Efforts to meet the ongoing needs of all evacuees are continuing. Additional restrooms and showers arrived for the Troup Highway shelter yesterday and several local businesses and churches stepped up to help with items to provide comfort to evacuees. AT&T and Verizon provided cell phones and set up a phone bank so that evacuees could contact family and friends; Grace Community Church set up big screen televisions, basketball hoops and children's play areas in the shelter; Wal-Mart, Dollar General, Brookshires, Suddenlink, Lowes and Home Depot have all donated items; Bethel Bible Church has also been helping out at the shelter to offer support and comfort.
"The City has had several members of our leadership team at the shelter since it opened as well as Police Officers, Firemen and staff from several other Departments," said City Manager Designate Mark McDaniel. "We are doing everything possible to make the evacuees more comfortable during this emergency situation."
City Librarian Chris Albertson is at the Troup Highway shelter this morning providing reading materials to evacuees. The Parks and Recreation Department will also be on site to coordinate activities.