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Public Safety

Hurricane Rita Remembered

Hurricane Rita moved ashore at Sabine Pass, Texas after midnight on the morning of September 24, 2005.

The Calm Before The Storm

These photos were taken on Thursday, September 22. 

Galveston was preparing for a Category 4 or 5 Hurricane.

At noon that day a City Hall News Conference was disrupted by Fletcher Harris, who was upset that the city did not take advantage of a railroad car provided for evacuees.  He was escorted from the meeting by uniformed officers.

 At a news conference later in the day, City Manager Steve LeBlanc was giddy at predictions that Rita would move her anticipated devastation to Jefferson County. Listen

Mayors and County Judges Order Mandatory Evacuation

Friday, September 23, 2005 -- Guidry News Service moved its operations to the Galveston County Emergency Operations Center in League City, which was designed to withstand a Category 5 Hurricane.

Jim Guidry was interviewed on CKNW in Vancouver, British Colombia.  Listen

Leaving Galveston Island for a hurricane threat was a first for Guidry News Service.  We published a special message to our visitors. Message

Jim Guidry reported from the Gulf Freeway on the ride to League City.Listen

Guidry was interviewed on CKNW in Vancouver, British Colombia while he was en route to League City. Listen

The Galveston County Building on Highway 645 in League City, which houses the Galveston County Emergency Operations Center, also houses the National Weather Service and the Galveston County Emergency Communications District.  Galveston County Judge Jim Yarbrough, who developed a county-wide cooperative emergency management team, was in the building for its first hurricane. 

Galveston Mayor Pro Tem Joe Jaworski, Fleet Manager David Smith and Assistant City Manager Lloyd Renderer weathered the storm at the Galveston County Office of Emergency Management. Listen

Jaworski's services proved valuable to the county-wide coordination when fires erupted in Galveston and firefighters were called out to battle an inferno driven by hurricane force winds. This excerpt includes a dramatic, real-time recording of the police radio during an emergency. Listen

Later, Jaworski updated reporters on the fires.  Listen

Kemah City Administrator Bill Kerber was also at the EOC. Listen

Hurricane Rita made landfall at the Sabine River.  Meteorologist in Charge of the Houston-Galveston Weather Service Office Bill Read reported that Galveston County was spared hurricane force winds.  Listen

Saturday, September 25, 2005 -- Galveston County Sheriff Gean Leonard reported that his deputies had a relatively quiet night, but were preparing to go out to assess damage. Listen

As the winds diminished to gale force, Jim Guidry returned to Galveston Island.  Here is his report en route from the Galveston County Emergency Operations Center and the Guidry News Service Office on Church Street.  Listen


After the Hurricane  

Guidry News Service surveyed the damage at Yaga's and at the Anderson Studio.

Jim Guidry interviewed Galveston businessman Beau Rawlins on 23rd Street while the pair looked at Saengerfest Park. Listen

Guidry was interviewed by Dana Dixon of KLTV in Tyler, Texas; then he interviewed her. Listen

The photos to the left were provided by Galveston photographer Robert Mihovil.


Sunday Morning, September 26, 2005

Eliot Jennings in the Galveston County Emergency Operations Center reported that residents of Galveston were being allowed to return to the island. Listen

Galveston Public Information Officer Mary Jo Naschke reported that residents can come home, but warned that many city services would not be available. Listen

Visit to Bolivar

Naschke reported that the Bolivar Ferry was running and the San Luis Pass Bridge was open. Listen

Jim and Lynda Guidry reported from the Bolivar Peninsula that there was some damage to buildings and beach houses but not as bad as some had expected. Listen


Back on the Island Sunday Afternoon

Galveston Island evacuees who left on city and Galveston Independent School District buses were welcomed home by Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas and GISD Superintendent Lynn Hale.  Listen



September 26, 2005 11:30 a.m

Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas, City Manager Steve LeBlanc, Galveston Independent School District Superintendent Lynn Hale and CenterPoint Service Manager David Murphy briefed the news media on the aftermath of Rita. Listen


Throughout the threat of Hurricane Rita, when Mayor Thomas assumed management of the city under emergency authority approved by the city council, she was advised by her special assistant Elise Stevens.
September 26, 2005 -- Texas State Senator Kyle Janek, in Galveston, talked to Guidry News Service about the situation in Jefferson County.  Listen

Jamaica Beach Mayor Vic Pierson reported that his West Galveston Island City fared well through Rita. 

KUDOs for Guidry News Service from Vandy Anderson, in a conversation that begins with Joe Higgins.  Listen

September 27, 2005 -- Galveston Park Board of Trustees Executive Director Lou Muller reported that Galveston's beach parks came out o.k. Listen

September 28, 2005

Jim and Lynda Guidry made a quick trip to Port Arthur and Beaumont.  

The photos were taken in Downtown Beaumont and in the Port Acres area of Port Arthur.

September 29, 2005

Galveston Historical Foundation suffered minor damage during Rita; however one window of the Historic Customs House was blown out during the fire at Anderson Gallery in the old Eagle's Hall less than one block away.  Guidry News Service was allowed to cover a GHF staff meeting. Listen

Lloyd Thomas, who manages the Great Storm Theatre, evacuated to Fort Polk, Louisiana, which he described as Ground Zero.  Listen

September 30, 2005

Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas pointed the finger of blame at Texas Governor Rick Perry for long lines of traffic during the evacuation of Galveston Island during the threat of Hurricane Rita.  Listen

"Galveston has received a number of comments in support of our evacuation process," Thomas said, admitting that the city's preparation was not perfect.  "But when Galveston citizens left the island of Galveston, we had trouble."

Thomas said that the State of Texas had assured her and others "time and time and time again" that Galveston residents would be welcomed at shelters in Huntsville after a three to four hour trip.

"That is not what happened," Thomas said.  "As the day progressed on Wednesday things began to happen in the Houston area that caused our good citizens to stay on buses for 12 hours, 16 hours, two days."

Thomas said that local officials and local residents all did the right thing.

"I will not accept the responsibility or the blame for what happened when our citizens hit the Houston area," Thomas said.  "I would urge those of you who had such a miserable trip to let the governor of the State of Texas and our representatives know how you feel about what happened to you.  I will not shoulder that responsibility."

Thomas called on the governor to immediately make changes in the state's evacuation plans, including establishment of a high occupancy vehicle lane.

"Instead of taking you out of harm's way you went into harm's way," Thomas said.  "Lives were threatened and people died on that trip; and dogs died and cats died."

State Representative Craig Eiland, who attended the meeting, said that he would deliver the mayor's message to the governor.

Thomas was very pleased with the public officials in Fairfield, Texas, where the evacuees were welcomed.

"The county sheriff there said 'You need go no further'," Thomas reported.

City Manager Steve LeBlanc said that he is working with the city officials in Fairfield to approve an interlocal agreement to allow Galveston to establish shelter for 3,000 residents, if another evacuation is called; so that the city will not have to depend on the state's plan.

The mayor's emotional speech preceded a special meeting of city council that was called to deal with several items that needed action before the end of the 2005 fiscal year at midnight tonight.

The city council approved new two-year contracts with Municipal Court Judge John Campbell and Alternate Municipal Judge Ted Allmond.

The city council approved a new $50,000 economic development contract with the Galveston Economic Development Partnership; and $15,000 for the GIS program that the GEDP is developing.

Three people, Steve Greenberg, Mike Rogers and Herbert Turner, appeared before the city council to praise the mayor for her leadership during Rita.

Guidry News Service is headquartered in Midtown Houston.
at 4001 Fannin Street, Suite 4109, Houston, TX. 77004-4077
(409) 763 NEWS(6397)
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