For some, the decision of whether to evacuate or stay was as unclear Monday morning as the projected paths of tropical storms Marco and Laura.
But one look at the empty gas pumps and busy sandbag stations showed most Southeast Texans weren’t taking chances.
While Tropical Storm Marco is projected to hit east of Southeast Texas, Tropical Storm Laura is expected to make landfall in Southwest Louisiana or Southeast Texas with the potential to be upgraded to a Category 2 hurricane.
In Port Arthur, Thurman Bartie issued a mandatory evacuation for 6 a.m. Tuesday. But before that, the city set up three locations for residents to pick up sandbags. A group of city workers, volunteers and Port Arthur Councilmember Thomas Kinlaw were there to help those loading up their vehicles.
By 8 p.m., a mandatory evacuation of all of of Jefferson County was called for 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.
“We still have a few hundred more cars and we are servicing our city of Port Arthur. We are going to service as many vehicles as we can — that’s our goal,” Kinlaw said before the mandatory evacuation order was given. “We have some hard workers and volunteers out here doing a really good job.”
In Nederland, Tara Ramirez pulled her wagon to load some sandbags at Doornbos Park. She has lived next door to the park for three years. When the sandbag giveaway began at 10 a.m., cars were lined up for a quarter-mile. By 1:30 p.m., the line stretched back beyond 27th Street.
“It got bad in (Tropical Storm) Harvey, but we didn’t get water inside,” Ramirez said. “We’re leaving for Livingston (Tuesday).”
Nederland City Manager Chris Duque said the city planned to give out 5,000 bags of sand. By Monday afternoon, he said they were still on the first bundle of 1,000 bags. The city set up three sand mounds at the back of the park, allowing two cars per mound at a time to promote social distancing. Duque said the city added two more piles Monday afternoon to help the line move faster.
Many residents did not wait until Monday to prepare and stocked up on hurricane supplies over the previous weekend. Jon Drago, owner of Drago Hardware Co. in Port Arthur, said hurricane clips, batteries and generator parts are currently out of stock. Both batteries and generator parts are to be restocked Tuesday, he said; but he is not sure if the store will restock the hurricane items.
Imran Ali, who owns several corner stores and a restaurant, said he is stocked on emergency supplies, and will be open until the last minute for residents in need.
“First comes the community for us,” Ali said. “We are trying to fill up the gas tanks in advance, trying to fill up all the necessary items like water, batteries, flashlights, anything that people in any kind of emergency need. Ice, smaller things which they can not go anywhere to grab in times of emergency so they can come to the corner store and grab those from there.”
Ali also owns a store in Fannett, a town that experienced extensive flooding last September as a result of Tropical Depression Imelda.
“I stayed there during Tropical Depression Imelda, since it was the only store in the area,” Ali said. “When it comes to community, you have to give back what you get from the community.”
“I’m worried … but we have no plans to be evacuated because we have no way to transport our goats,” Leckelt said. “We have 20 goats so we will stay here and ride it out, that way if a tree comes down and they happen to get out or whatever, I’ll be able to get a handle on it and recoup all of them.”
As a precaution, her and her husband are moving the goats to one large enclosure with a shelter attached to it.
“I’d say it is pretty much all the same thing down here,” she said, “Everybody is stocking up on gas for generators and just trying to secure anything on their properties that could blow away.”
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