Wednesday, September 21

"BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY"

Houston mayor Bill White, no doubt learning important lessons from the disastrous decisions and vascillation of his counterpart -- Ray Nagin -- in New Orleans, is making the most of advance predictions of a possible landfall of Hurricane Rita in the Galveston-Houston area (by late Friday or early Saturday of this week) in warning citizens to be better safe than sorry!

As the "Houston Chronicle" (registration required) is reporting:

Up to a million Houstonians living in low-lying and flood-prone areas might need to evacuate if Hurricane Rita threatens the region, Mayor Bill White said today.

He cautioned that it's too early to predict any evacuation details, but he urged residents — especially those who might need help leaving the city — to get ready now.

"I'd like to ask all Houstonians to begin thinking about their own evacuation plans if there was a request — or order — to evacuate," White said at a City Hall news conference. "If the storm continues on its current trajectory, based on the statistical models, there will be some instructions made to evacuate."

White, who has been in touch with a hurricane expert at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the city would watch the storm closely and perhaps make decisions by Wednesday afternoon.

"We're going to follow the policy of better safe than sorry," he later told the City Council, noting that the earlier the decision, the easier it would be for people to drive on the major roadways designated as evacuation routes.

Those "evacuation routes," the mayor is referencing, can be found here: Roads ready for evacuation • Map: Recommended routes.

May I also recommend to you the Chronicle's "Hurricane Rita" blog.

Final comment: the longer you wait to evacuate, the greater the likelihood of gridlock on the designated highway arteries out of the low-lying, flood-prone areas, and the greater the chances of being unable to find motel or hotel rooms (or other services for that matter) once you're outside of Brazoria, Galveston, and Harris counties. Word to the wise: when officials announce an evacuation order, heed it.